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Please Visit New Address at TheNewNixon.org

July 14, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Maintenance | Leave a Comment 

Hello New Nixon faithful. We would like to inform that we have changed our permanent address to TheNewNixon.org. Please visit the new address for breaking stories and updates, as the current address Nixonblog.com will be forwarded momentarily. We look forward to your continued readership.

Ich Bin Ein Hanoian

July 13, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Republican Party, Vietnam | Leave a Comment 

Europe may love Sen. Obama, but Vietnam love Sen. McCain — “Newsweek“:

[The Vietnamese] know who McCain is, and no one seems to hold a grudge about the 23 bombing missions he flew against targets in and around Hanoi. That goes for ordinary Vietnamese, senior bureaucrats and people who met him during his captivity—the district nurse who may have saved his life after he was shot down, and the hard-line military officer who was his chief jailer for more than five years at the Plantation and the notorious Hanoi Hilton. They like the way McCain pushed Washington to normalize relations in the 1990s and the way trade has mushroomed from $1.5 billion in 2001 to $12 billion last year, and they believe he’ll help them even more if he wins. It’s a far cry from the day McCain parachuted from his disintegrating jet and was severely beaten and stripped to his underwear by the mob that pulled him from Truc Bach Lake.

Or People Who Don’t Wear Watches

July 13, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Election 2008 | Leave a Comment 

Here’s something you might not have thought about: Are pollsters underestimating support for Sen. Obama by failing to reach cell phone users who don’t have land lines?

In The Arena With McCain

July 13, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Presidents, Republican Party | Leave a Comment 

Speaking to the New York Times, Sen. McCain likes the TR paradigm:

“I count myself as a conservative Republican, yet I view it to a large degree in the Theodore Roosevelt mold,” Mr. McCain said, referring to Roosevelt’s reputation for reform, environmentalism and tough foreign policy.

The views expressed by Mr. McCain in the 45-minute interview here Friday illustrated the challenge the probable Republican presidential nominee faces as he tries to navigate the sensibilities of his party’s conservative base and those of the moderate and independent voters he needs to defeat Senator Barack Obama, his Democratic rival.

His responses suggested that he was basically in sync with his party’s conservative core but was not always willing to use the power of the federal government to impose those values. He also expressed a willingness to deploy government power and influence where free-market purists might hesitate to do so and to consider unleashing military force for moral reasons.

Who’s Bush’s Third Term Now?

July 13, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Bush Administration, Democratic Party, Iraq War | Leave a Comment 

Andrew Sullivan argues that the Bush and Obama Iraq policies are converging.

Featured Articles — July 13, 2008

July 13, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Featured Articles | Leave a Comment 

Interesting Takes from Home and Abroad:

The Enthusiasm Gap, Part II by Stephen F. Hayes
Conservative voters remain uninspired by the McCain campaign.

Tony Snow Was a Gem By Susan Estrich
Tony Snow was a gem. We usually disagreed - hell, we were paid to disagree for years, starting out nearly 20 years ago, when he was “Monday” at USA Today and I was “Thursday” and every week or so we did what was then considered a “novel” on-line back-and-forth for AOL called “The Great Debate.”

Making It by Ryan Lizza
How Chicago shaped Obama.

An Army That Learns By David Ignatius
The U.S. Army has done something remarkable in its new history of the disastrous first 18 months of the American occupation of Iraq: It has conducted a rigorous self-critique of how bad decisions were made, so that the Army won’t make them again.

The heretic By Lawrence Wright
How Al-Qaeda’s mastermind turned his back on terror - Part one.

France’s Broken Social Model By Jurgen Reinhoudt
France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy is doing what he can to reform France’s economy, with mixed results so far. Seeking to weaken resistance by special-interest groups and militant labor unions, the self-proclaimed reformer is attempting to break through a reform logjam by introducing numerous economic reforms at once, so as to catch his opposition off-guard.

The Real-Life ‘24’ of Summer 2008 By Frank Rich
Are we safe? As Al Qaeda and the Taliban surge this summer, that single question is even more urgent than the moral and legal issues attending torture.

It Takes a School, Not Missiles By Nicholas D. Kristof
Greg Mortenson has spent less than one-ten-thousandth as much as the Bush administration to help fight terrorism in Pakistan. Instead of blowing things up, he builds schools.

Drowning in Riches By Kenneth M. Pollack
YOU might think that $140 per barrel oil would be good for at least one part of the world, the Middle East. It’s too soon to tell for certain, but the region may well turn out to be the part of the world that suffers the most.

The Soundtrack Of Our Lives: Herb Alpert

July 12, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

Every Sunday, The Soundtrack of Our Lives looks back at some of the music that was popular forty years ago, around the time Richard Nixon ran for, and was elected, President.

THIS GUY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU (Burt Bacharach and Hal David)

performed by HERB ALPERT

Forty years ago today the number one hit song on the Billboard Hot 100 was Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s In Love With You”. Unlike many of the peppy hits Alpert scored playing trumpet with his Tijuana Brass, this was a solo rendering of a gentle ballad written by the hitmaking machine known as Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Another anomaly was Alpert’s own vocal. His other hits had been instrumentals with the Tijuana Brass — and for at least one good reason: his limited vocal range. But Bacharach (who had been the musical director for Marlene Dietrich who had, it might be argued, no vocal range) was able to make a virtue of this adversity by composing a melody that could be very effectively spoke-sung.

Even so, Alpert had no intentions of recording the song. It was written for his TV special Beat of the Brass, on which he sang it to his wife while walking through a number of sylvan settings before ending up on the beach at Malibu. When the station’s switchboard was swamped with calls, the decision was made to release it; and within a couple of weeks it was settled in at Number One.

As Wikipedia puts it: “Initially dismissed by the critical cognoscenti and “hip” music-lovers as strictly a housewife’s favorite, Alpert’s unusually expressive recording of “This Guy’s in Love with You” is now regarded as one of the monumental ballads in pop.”

Herb Alpert is a true polymath — songwriter, musician, performer, record label founder and owner, discoverer and promoter of talent, music business tycoon, sculptor, painter, and philanthropist. There is information about his career and current activities on his very impressive website.

After graduating from USC (where he was a member of the Trojan Marching Band), the young musician wrote such early hits as Sam Cooke’s “What A Wonderful World” and the novelty “Alley-Oop”.

On a visit to Tijuana he attended a bullfight and heard a mariachi band. When he got back to the recording studio he had built in his garage, he set out to capture the way the music had underscored the emotions of those moments in the bull ring. He took a song he had been trying to arrange (”Twinkle Star” by Sol Lake), added his distinctive trumpet, folded in crowd sounds — and the result was “The Lonely Bull” performed by “Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass”.

Herb Alpert, his sound, and his Brass, took off and ended up claiming five Number One Billboard hits, releasing 28 albums (14 platinum and 15 gold), and winning 8 Grammys.

I mentioned to my old friend Ray Hanzlik that I was planning to write about Herb Alpert for this week’s Soundtrack, and a few days later I received the following email from him:

When I was the intelligence briefing officer on the USS Ranger during air combat operations in Vietnam in 1965-66, I designed a TV system to broadcast my briefings direct to the six squadron ready rooms (where the pilots worked and were briefed) prior to the eight flight operations each day.

Previously, pilots had to come for face-to-face briefings, but now they could stay in their respective ready rooms and get the information over a closed TV system.

I focused the camera on a notebook with individual sheets prepared with each part of the information they needed for each cycle of operations (weather, radio frequencies, gun fire locations, etc.). I would flip through the book, explaining the various intelligence information displayed.

I had to devise a method to keep the attention of the pilots, as the information was important but could be overlooked because of the frequency of the briefings. So I created “The Uncle Hanz” Show” and employed devices I was pretty sure would hold my viewers’ attention.

When the broadcast started (every two hours), it began with the familiar sound of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass’ “Spanish Flea” — which continued playing during the whole briefing as background music. I also peppered the briefing with photos of female nudes.

The Uncle Hanz Show very quickly became very popular (for the photos, not the intelligence info), to the point where the Captain watched it from the bridge. I got fan mail, and pilots began providing me photos. Before long I had assembled perhaps the largest collection of nude photography in the Pacific (some of which could not be used). I even received the Navy Achievement medal for this project.

Mid-way through our deployment, the Captain was replaced in a change-of-command. The outgoing Captain was a terrific officer, who understood how to deal with men during a wartime situation (and hence blessed the somewhat risqué Uncle Hanz Show).

The new skipper came from the Pentagon, and was a by-the-book East Coast spit and polish officer with no combat experience. Soon after he came aboard, he saw my show and immediately ordered that the nude pictures be eliminated (he also ordered that all pin-ups be removed from the sailors’ lockers and other locations).

So I replaced the ladies with photos of animals (but I kept using Herb Alpert’s “Spanish Flea”). The pilots expressed mock outrage, sending me notes that they would no longer watch my program, and we all suffered through the rest of the cruise under this very unpopular Captain.

But fate had its revenge in two ways. First, when we left Vietnam for the ten day cruise back to San Francisco, I posted my entire collection of photos on the walls of the intelligence space (with the blessing of my immediate superior). The pilots (who had clearances to visit the space) came in droves to see the display. Never had a Navy ship had such gorgeous wall coverings.

The second part of revenge was the sweetest. As the Ranger came into San Francisco Bay, all of the sailors and officers followed the Navy tradition of lining the edge of the ship on the flight deck wearing dress uniforms.

We were greeted by a flotilla of fireboats spraying great gushers of water as a greeting (another tradition). And in the middle of the fireboats was a different kind of boat filled with dancers from a local topless bar (which were plentiful in San Francisco in the mid-60s), dancing to music blaring from loud speakers.

There was nothing the Captain could do as they danced and jiggled next to our ship during the hour-plus passage to the pier. It was truly Uncle Hanz’s revenge, and the willingly captive audience of all 4,000 members of the Ranger’s crew knew it.

So now you know the full story of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and the Uncle Hanz Show.

I first met Ray in 1971 when we were both working for Counselor to the President Bob Finch in RN’s White House. Today, Uncle Hanz manages his lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. I’m sure that he brings the same kind of ingenuity —and successful results— to his current clients as he did to his intelligence briefings.

Not-So-Simple Sister

July 12, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Democratic Party, Election 2008, News media | Leave a Comment 

When Andrew Sullivan said Jesse Jackson’s now-famous comment about Sen. Obama was a Sister Souljah moment, I demurred. Then Geraldo Rivera said it was a SSM on FOX, and this morning Tim Rutten at the LA Times agrees:

In addition to the overtly Oedipal implications of Jackson’s chosen metaphor, this whole incident is striking as another reminder of the generational shift taking place among African Americans. It’s been obvious for some time that Jackson feels the Obama camp isn’t quite giving him his due as a political and civil rights pioneer. When he ran for the presidential nomination against Michael Dukakis in 1988, he did win 11 primaries, including those in Michigan, Georgia and Virginia. But it’s deeper than that.

Obama, 46, understands that there are now two black communities — one is the group of achievers to which he belongs, the other is a remnant urban underclass afflicted with all the pathologies that suggests. Jackson’s generation believes that admitting there is such a division risks leaving deprived African Americans behind. Obama’s generation believes that ignoring it guarantees the problem will never end.

Three smarter guys than I, so I should defer. But these stark generational distinctions about what African-Americans think sound a little facile and condescending. I still wonder how much the incident really helped Obama. (I confess I’ve had a soft spot for Jackson ever since he stood up for Terry Schiavo. Although I wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do, he acted out of principle, with no regard to the political consequences.)

Jackson’s dumb comment would obviously be a SSM if he hadn’t been acting like a good trooper in the Obama campaign, but he had been. Jackson has been the laughing stock of many conservatives for years, so FOX News predictably jumped all over him. Others in the MSM also seemed eager to cast Jackson aside, even after his graceful apology.

But does anyone really know what his standing is in the black community? SSM or no, does Obama’s evident distancing of himself from Jackson pose more political risk than the MSM may realize? Put another way, younger politicians frequently seek the advice, support, and even reflected glory of older ones. How come success as a black politician seems to require the implicit repudiation of one’s elders?

Nixonland Nitpick 4

July 12, 2008 by Jack Pitney | Filed Under American Politics, Democratic Party, Republican Party, Richard Nixon, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

A few quick takes:

On page 155, Nixonland refers to the “Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.”  For over a century, the name of the organization has been the National Republican Congressional Committee.

On page 185, it mentions “Paul A. Fino, the antibusing congressman from Queens.”  He was from the Bronx, as it acknowledges on p. 277.

On page 199, it refers to Connecticut Senator Thomas A. Dodd (father of Chris Dodd) as a “conservative,” so as to make his sponsorship of gun-control legislation sound all the more remarkable.  This one is a judgment call, as there is no universal definition of “conservative.”  But through 1967, the Americans for Democratic Action had given him an average rating of 67 percent.  And his score from AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education had averaged 85 percent.  Few would describe these scores as the mark of a conservative.

As Wilco, So Goes Amerca

July 12, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Culture, Election 2008 | 1 Comment 

On behalf of management, I assure TNN readers (not to mention readers at IRS, and I don’t mean R.E.M.’s old record company) that we do not take institutional positions or endorse candidates for President. I say this because of Frank Gannon’s statement that no one who doesn’t like Wilco is fit to be President. Since Sen. McCain is as likely to have Wilco on his iPod as the Velvet Underground or Mastodon, we fear that Frank’s statement will be taken as an indirect endorsement of the man from Illinois.

As a matter of fact, given his aversion to computers, McCain is as likely to have an iPod as a mastodon.

As for Obama’s iPod, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, his officially announced playlist has probably been political parsed, as all things must be in a campaign (given Michael Stipes’s nightly endorsements at R.E.M. concerts, Obama might want to add “The One I Love”). Looking at the artists Obama has actually mentioned, it’s hard to believe he really loves Wilco, as he insisted last night. One gets to Wilco through any number of country rock or alt.-country thresholds. If he’d listed the Flying Burrito Brothers, maybe, or if he had songs by Linda Ronstadt or Dr. Gannon’s crush Emmylou Harris, or even the Eagles, the Band, or the Grateful Dead. Otherwise, his statement lacks credibility.

Back in 1976, candidate Jimmy Carter made boomer journalists’ hearts pound backbeats by saying he loved Bob Dylan, though he had trouble mentioning his favorite song. Are the media still willing to ask the tough questions? Time for Obama’s Wilco test.

Obama Hearts Wilco

July 12, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Uncategorized | 1 Comment 

Before a performance by lead singer Jeff Tweedy and two of his Wilco bandmates at a $500 per ticket fundraiser in Chicago last night, Senator Obama spake thusly:”Before these guys go, I want them to know that I had heard a rumor that they had suggested that I had nothing by them on my iPod. That is not true. I love Wilco.”

A cynic at Chicagoist (which could be a redundancy) carps: “that sounds a bit made up — seriously, has anybody heard of this supposed Obama/Wilco-related rumor?”

I suspect that this is a case of guilt by disassociation. The Senator has, at various times in various venues, revealed some of his personal playlist. Among those in various degrees of rotation on his iPod are:

The Rolling Stones (his favorite song is “Gimme Shelter”)
Stevie Wonder (his musical hero)
Earth Wind & Fire
Elton John
Miles Davis
John Coltrane
Charlie Parker
Bob Dylan (30 songs, including Blood On The Tracks)
Bruce Springsteen
Jay-Z
Beyonce
Marvin Gaye
Howlin’ Wolf
Sheryl Crow

Just because Wilco hasn’t been mentioned to date doesn’t mean that Wilco hasn’t been there all along coming loud and clear through the Obama earbuds.

And exactly why, you may be asking, is this important? And, important or not, why is it being discussed on The New Nixon?  I am not unaware that those two questions are not infrequently asked regarding many of my TNN posts. But in this case, surely, the answer is clear: No one who doesn’t like Wilco deserves serious consideration as POTUS.

Words, Like Ideas, Have Consequences

July 12, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

On the “L.A. Land” blog in today’s Los Angeles Times, Peter Viles highlights an interesting aspect of the IndyMac debacle:

Here’s from the press release issued by IndyMac’s regulator, the Office of Thrift Supervision: “The OTS has determined that the current institution, IndyMac Bank, is unlikely to be able to meet continued depositors’ demands in the normal course of business and is therefore in an unsafe and unsound condition. The immediate cause of the closing was a deposit run that began and continued after the public release of a June 26 letter to the OTS and the FDIC from Senator Charles Schumer of New York. The letter expressed concerns about IndyMac’s viability. In the following 11 business days, depositors withdrew more than $1.3 billion from their accounts.

“This institution failed today due to a liquidity crisis,” OTS Director John Reich said. “Although this institution was already in distress, I am troubled by any interference in the regulatory process.”

Schumer’s response? In an e-mail quoted by Bloomberg News, he says: “If OTS had done its job as regulator and not let IndyMac’s poor and loose lending practices continue, we wouldn’t be where we are today … Instead of pointing false fingers of blame, OTS should start doing its job to prevent future IndyMacs.”

TNN Weekend Reward: Shan Foster’s “I Can’t Wait”

July 12, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

This week’s Weekend Reward comes with a tip of the cap to sports talkmeister Jim Rome. His daily three hour syndicated Jim Rome Show and his half hour daily ESPN broadcast Jim Rome Is Burning, are consistently informative, opinionated, and entertaining.

A man whose passions run as strong as his knowledge runs deep, Mr. Rome recently came across a music video that Vanderbilt basketball star guard Shan Foster made in his dorm room and uploaded to YouTube.

Here is how Vandy’s athletics department describes Shan Foster’s college career:

One of the most decorated players in Vanderbilt history… Leaves Vanderbilt as the school’s all-time leading scorer and first Commodore and 22nd SEC player to surpass the 2,000-point plateau (2,011 points)…Also finished his career as VU’s all-time leader in field goals made (699) and attempted (1483) and three-pointers made (367) and attempted (872)…Posted the highest single-season three-point total in SEC history in 2007-08 when he made 134 threes…Chosen consensus (AP and Coaches) SEC Player of the Year as a senior, and was named a second-team All-American by the Associated Press.

He was selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the fifty-first pick in the second round of the NBA draft last month.

Mr. Foster, playing a keyboard and singing his own composition —”I Can’t Wait (To Play In The NBA)”— in his dorm room, is not without talent or charm. But the quality that so attracted Mr. Rome —and will, I’m sure, appeal no less to TNN readers— was the unaffected joyful enthusiasm the young man brings to his subject.

In an age of cynicism and skepticism, with agents cutting deals beyond the dreams of avarice, this is a breath of fresh air that restores the element of humanity to what has otherwise too often become just an exercise in commerce. (It is also, incidentally, a reflection of the same kind of unalloyed love of sport and competition that RN felt — from his earliest days as a would be Poet at Whittier, through his time as First Cheerleader, to his final years as a to-the-last-out spectator.)

Here is what Jim Rome had to say about Shan Foster and his video (although reading it is nothing like hearing it delivered in the inimitable Rome oracular staccato style):

I can’ wait…to get to this ‘take’! I think my favorite guy in the entire NBA draft, is a guy who went 51st overall! The Dallas Mavericks stole the SEC player of the year, Shan Foster. Foster is Vandy’s all time leading scorer. A guy who routinely hit 30 foot NBA style “three bombs”! A guy who can shoot, defend, lead, and most importantly…can’t wait to play in the NBA! But, don’t take my word for it. Hit it Shan!!Awesome! Incredible guy! Decent singer! And, the song is well…a “little cheesy”. A “little cheesy”, but so awesome! Could the kid be any more sincere and appreciative of the opportunity? No sense of entitlement there. Just love of the game! How do you know? Look around his “pad”! No oversized plasma hanging from the wall that some “booster” bought for him. Just an X-Box hooked up to a 14 inch TV and a random lamp on the floor. If Foster swung the camera around…you’d probably see a stack of cup of noodles and a hot plate.This guy is going to do great in Dallas! He’s going to “kill it” with catch and shoots off Jason Kidd’s drives and the Dirk Nowitzki double teams. I literally can’t get that song out of my head. Much like I couldn’t get Shaq’s rap out of my head. Except, Shan’s not demanding: “Kobe, tell me, how’s my (bleep) tastes!” Or, telling me he got a vasectomy so now he can’t breed them.

Great job, Shan! We can’t wait to see you play in the NBA either.

Not All Race Cards Are Equal

July 12, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Democratic Party, Election 2008, Republican Party | Leave a Comment 

The new “Newsweek” poll shows Sen. Obama ahead of Sen. McCain by just three points (and the margin of error is three points). The average of several polls maintained by Real Clear Politics shows Obama ahead by 4.6%.

Pundits and bloggers are flummoxed. Obama is riding a swift boat to the center, with the slight risk of losing some core voters who, after all, have nowhere else go (except for the young people who, their especially tender political toes mashed by Obama’s feet of clay, decide to go to chem lab instead of the polls in November). Meanwhile McCain is having a terrible time, with staff shakeups, the lack of a coherent theme, and Fred Barnes even saying on Hugh Hewitt yesterday that McCain’s campaign was an echo of Sen. Bob Dole’s disastrous run against Bill Clinton in 1992.

So why is hope coming this morning for McCain? “Newsweek” says it delicately:

The new poll suggests white voters continue to be a challenge for Obama, with McCain leading the Democrat in that category 48 to 36 percent.

That category? White Americans is a pretty big category. The poll also revealed continued confusion among relatively small percentages of voters about Obama’s religious background and upbringing. This could be confusion; it could also be people deciding they know what they know. Given the number of people who tried to get me to watch videos about it ten or 15 years ago, a measurable percentage of voters were convinced that Bill and Hillary Clinton were having their political enemies whacked. A certain percentage of Americans always believe weird things. More ominous is that, despite McCain’s floundering and Obama’s opportunistic deftness, McCain is evidently holding his own because a significant number, if voting today, wouldn’t vote for Obama because of race.

It’s not necessarily that they’re racists. It could be that they say the U.S. isn’t ready for an African-American President. Rightly or wrongly, people may say that race gave Obama a decisive edge, resulting in his being nominated before he was ready. Whatever the reasons, if this dynamic is McCain’s principal political advantage, how does his campaign resist the impulse to exploit it, with the dire consequences for race relations that would envitably result? The courage to resist can only come from the man who has been tempted before, and under the much graver circumstances of that prison in Hanoi.

Yet even if he doesn’t exploit the race gap, it could still help McCain. Assuming he decides not to exploit race to win, should he say that he would rather lose than win because of race? Perhaps the better way to make a statement is for McCain to court the black vote himself, as it appeared he intended back in April. McCain shouldn’t take white voters for granted. Obama shouldn’t be permitted to take black voters for granted, either.

Chuck Wagon

July 12, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Democratic Party, The National Interest | Leave a Comment 

Blogging at “Huffington,” “The National Interest’s” Jacob Heilbrunn reveals that Sen. McCain’s friend Sen. Chuck Hagel will accompany Sen. Obama on his upcoming international travels.

Saturday He Goes Out And Plays

July 12, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Culture, In Memoriam, News media | Leave a Comment 

Tony Snow, who died today after a long battle against colon cancer, on grappling with chronic illness:

The art of being sick is not the same as the art of getting well. Some cancer patients recover; some don’t. But the ordeal of facing your mortality and feeling your frailty sharpens your perspective about life. You appreciate little things more ferociously. You grasp the mystical power of love. You feel the gravitational pull of faith. And you realize you have received a unique gift — a field of vision others don’t have about the power of hope and the limits of fear; a firm set of convictions about what really matters and what does not.

And did you know he played blues flute? Somewhere and sometime in America, probably when Snow was still with FOX News, a jam morphed into “Stormy Monday.”

Featured Articles — July 12, 2008

July 12, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Featured Articles | Leave a Comment 

Interesting Takes from Home and Abroad:

Black-Hole Speech By Jonah Goldberg
At a recent meeting of city officials in Dallas County, Texas, a small racial brouhaha broke out. County commissioners were hashing out difficulties with the way the central collections office handles traffic tickets. Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield found himself guilty of talking while white. He observed that the bureaucracy “has become a black hole” for lost paperwork.

Phil Gramm Is Right By Amity Shlaes
“In serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus.” That’s the role John McCain joked that former senator Phil Gramm might have in a McCain administration. Gramm is McCain’s most senior economic adviser, the one best qualified to lead the finance team of a McCain presidency. Now, however, Gramm faces political exile because he made the mistake of telling the truth.

The Dissent Deceit By Ralph Peters
Not Patriotism’s Highest Form.

One Last Thing: U.S. citizens’ gas money fueling Mideast’s boom By Jonathan V. Last
If you want to understand the macroeconomic implications of paying more than $4 a gallon (and rising) for gasoline, just look at the skyline of Dubai.

West suffers historic defeat as China and Russia veto Zimbabwe sanctions By James Bone & David Robertson
Britain’s diplomatic strategy in Zimbabwe collapsed last night in an historic defeat for the West in the UN Security Council that will have repercussions across Africa and beyond.

We’re Not Leaving By Michael Barone
Sixty years ago this month, the top story in campaign year 1948 was not the big poll lead of Republican nominee Thomas Dewey or the plight of President Harry Truman. It was the Berlin airlift.

Democrats Wave Goodbye to Lieberman By Robert Novak
Despite assurances to the contrary from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democratic insiders are certain Sen. Joseph Lieberman next year will be kicked out of the party’s caucus and lose his Senate chairmanship if he addresses the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., as planned.

What We’ve Learned From the Massachusetts Health Plan By Mitt Romney
Washington needs to encourage states as they tackle this tough issue.

Don’t Mess With the Electoral College By David Lewis Shaefer
Despite its allure, that’s a bad idea.

Obama’s Liberal Shock Troops By John Fund
While he is a skilled candidate, Barack Obama’s ability to surprise, stun and sweep over the vaunted Clinton Machine to capture the Democratic nomination was rooted in his background as a community organizer. He’s now turning those skills to the general election.

A tale of two hostages By Caroline Glick
Exalting at her liberation by the Colombian military last week, former hostage Ingrid Betancourt exclaimed, “This is a miracle, a miracle! We have an amazing military. I think only the Israelis can possibly pull off something like this.”

Nelson And Lyndon By David Shribman
Both Nelson Rockefeller and Lyndon Johnson were born 100 years ago this summer. Their legacies speak to us still.

Bad Nixonian Boys!

July 11, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Culture, Republican Party | Leave a Comment 

Andrew Sullivan gives Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, authors of the new book Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream, their Nixon stripes:

R&R talk of some of Nixon’s virtues. But they also sometimes give in to Nixon’s fatal flaw: his deep resentment of educated elites, contempt and loathing for yuppie liberals and a great deal of animus toward the cool kids in class. This can undermine otherwise worthwhile ideas. It alienates unnecessarily.

And so the Matthews-Perlstein unified field theory of RN’s personality, rooted in Chris Matthews’s interpretation of the social dynamics between two undergraduate clubs at pre-World War II Whittier College, continues to spread. But what happens if the whole Orthogonian-Franklin thing — the underpinning of Rick Perlstein’s massive Nixonland — is a complete misreading? What if it has more to do with Matthews’s psychology than Nixon’s? Stay tuned.

As for sneering generalizations about overeducated elites, nothing could be more offensive. Here’s yet another example from…”National Review”? “The American Spectator”? Nope: “Salon.”

Nixon In Their DNA

July 11, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under History, Nixon Library, Richard Nixon | 2 Comments 

Historian David Greenberg’s comments in an “Orange Coast Magazine” article, “Nixon: The Comeback,” suggests that the Rick Perlstein theory about the origin of all evil in modern U.S. politics is catching on:

People are starting to recognize that it was Nixon who really started a lot of the trends that we’re seeing today, from the anything-to-win mentality in Republican politics to the idea of attacking the ‘liberal’ media. And while I don’t think that George W. Bush’s behavior in office is as bad as Nixon’s or that he should be impeached, I think there’s a general recognition that Bush has Nixon in his DNA. A lot of the people around him—Rove and Cheney and Rumsfeld—all got their start with Nixon. So it’s natural that their political style should recall Nixon and lead us back to him.

Sympathy vs. Empathy: Cannes 2008 Winning Short

July 11, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under Culture, Faith | 2 Comments 

Another One Bites the Dust

July 11, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

It seems likely that the same kind of problem that afflicted the former head of Senator Obama’s veep search committee will knock one of the most prepossessing potential candidates out of consideration.

Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd’s ability to get by a bit better than the rest of citizenry thanks a little help from his friends in high places has already been noted here.

In today’s Trail Head campaign blog on Slate, Christopher Beam laments how the Senator’s penny ante savings of a couple of grand on close to three-quarters-of-a-million dollars of mortgages may end up preventing him from ever moving into the (rent free) Naval Observatory.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

July 11, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

As global warming wreaks its havoc even here on the breezy western shore of the Chesapeake, the Beach Boys’ iconic song is in heavy rotation on the soundtrack of this particular life.

Now a new wish has been added to the regular litany involving reduced temperatures and lowered humidity: Wouldn’t it be nice if Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy decided not to stand for re-election in order to pursue his new career of acting. Ted Kennedy or Joe Biden would be preferable to the Vice President’s erstwhile antagonist who is the kind of politician that gives partisanship a bad name.

Here is the Chairman’s less-than-15 seconds of fame in the upcoming Batman epic The Dark Knight (he’s the one on the left):

A Long Way From Yorba Linda to China

July 11, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under China, Culture | Leave a Comment 

Music director Robert Frelly of the Yorba Linda Symphony Orchestra presents greetings from the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation to the director of the Juijiazui Community in Shanghai. During its recent visit to China, the five-year-old orchestra joined with two other ensembles, a total of 300 musicians, for a concert conducted by Dr. Frelly in Beijing’s Forbidden City. Read the maestro’s day-by-day diary here.

U.S. Helped in Rescue

July 11, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Terrorism | Leave a Comment 

Despite charges of incompetence, the U.S. played a significant role in the Colombian hostage rescue.

With Friends Like These

July 11, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under American Politics, Election 2008, Entertainment | Leave a Comment 

The problems between Barack Obama and Jesse Jackson —and the large amounts of love not lost between them— are nothing new.

Last March on Saturday Night Live, Robert Smigel produced one of his TV Funhouse cartoons called “The Obama Files”.

Department of What Was He Thinking

July 11, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under American Politics | Leave a Comment 

This is a profoundly shocking story on many levels — not least among which is the level on which it will be very briefly clucked over before being quickly swept under the carpet.

New York Congressman Charles R. Rangel, the immensely powerful Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee —and, presumably, a man who understands the ways of means— has been occupying four rent-controlled residential apartments in a luxury building in upper Manhattan, and using one of them as a campaign office. This master of budgetary arcanae and minutiae claims he had no idea that he has been getting what, in New York, would be referred to as such a deal.

The Congressman has been living in this building since the early 1970s; and, therefore, while he sat on the House Judiciary Committee’s Impeachment Inquiry which took such a critical interest in some of President Nixon’s real estate.

Usually a critic of landlords’ attempts to evict rent-controlled tenants in order to receive market-rate rents for their apartments, Chairman Rangel has been uncharacteristically silent regarding his own landlord’s controversial activities in that regard.

Mr. Rangel is nothing if not a very skilled survivor, and a couple of hours ago he held a news conference in which he demonstrated his mastery of SOP for a Democrat In Trouble: deny everything; admit nothing; then attack.

Asked by a reporter whether his living arrangements were fair — given that other rent-stabilized apartments who have more than one unit are typically asked to occupy just one — Mr. Rangel replied, “The question of fairness is so subjective.”

The news conference took a turn when Mr. Rangel said he was not aware of tenants legally living in rent-stabilized apartments being evicted.

Several residents angrily accosted Mr. Rangel, saying that he had ignored their complaints about that phenomenon. “I have no knowledge of anyone being evicted that has paid their rent,” he said.

When a Times reporter, David Kocieniewski, pressed Mr. Rangel on the issue of fairness, the congressman declined to answer, saying, “I have decided unilaterally that you have asked more than your share.” He added, when Mr. Kocieniewski tried to press him, “Hell no, I’m not going to respond to you.”

Mr. Rangel said he did have a problem with “people living in rent-stabilized apartments that have moved themselves from the building and lived in other places,” and he said the management of the complex had taken action against such tenants. But he said that residents who legitimately lived in their rent-stabilized units were not being evicted.

As everyone knows, shame will soon be obsolete; what little is left of it today is an inconveniently vestigial throwback. So Chairman Rangel, who is one of the toughest cookies in Congress, showed no hesitation even in shamelessly playing the geezer sympathy card: “The idea that being 78 years old, having two places, one is rent-stabilized, and this is the twilight of my life…”

The Big Anti-Semitic Lie that Won’t Go Away

July 11, 2008 by David R. Stokes | Filed Under History, Islam, Israel and Palestinians, Russia, Terrorism, War on Terror | Leave a Comment 

While fires were still smoldering at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and in a Pennsylvanian pasture, malicious people conjured up an evil myth. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many in the Arab world believed that the vicious attack on America was not the work of Islamists, but rather was an Israeli-driven Mossad operation. This legend soon developed muscular legs and is now widely regarded by millions of Muslims as the truth.

And why not? For decades school children in Muslim nations (not to mention their parents at home) have been baptized in anti-Semitic narratives. The opinions in their world about Jews in general, and Israel in particular, are concrete – thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.

And the most persistent and pernicious ideas that have been accepted by millions as factual truth flowed from the poisonous pen of a guy named Mathieu Golovinski.

The spurious publication called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is an Islamist must-read. The work tells a story that fits the pattern of long-standing prejudices. The words reinforce the visceral hatred Islamists have toward Jews.

Islamist anti-Semitism is not a new thing. It didn’t begin with the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, or the Six-Day War in 1967. It was around long before there was a Hitler – in fact, it grew up alongside Islam from the beginning. It’s an enmity that can be traced back to Muhammad and what he said, wrote, and did. And to those looking for ammunition to use against people they have been historically conditioned to hate, the often denounced and repeatedly refuted forgery is just what the evil doctor ordered.

In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, it is true that non-Muslims and non-Nazis have at times bought into the notions set forth by the Protocols - some even in the name of Christianity. This is sad. But it is also statistically rare these days. Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan types apparently still peddle the book, but these people are the proverbial skunks at our national picnic. And eighty years ago, there were a few prominent Americans (automobile magnate Henry Ford notable among them) who endorsed the writings. But that was a passing, though very regrettable, thing.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion purports to be written evidence of a vast and secret Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. It’s presented as a factual and detailed description of a late-nineteenth century meeting to plot international Hebrew hegemony through manipulation and treachery. These ideas are at the root of the mother of all conspiracy theories for those who live in the bizarre world of alternative historical reality.

In fact, the publication is a forgery – probably the most sinister and infamous fake in literary history.

The year is 1898, and Nicholas II rules a Russia that’s beginning to experience the revolutionary stirrings of modernism. The Tsar is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and tends to be easily led by strong people around him. He tries to take incremental steps toward leading the nation away from its feudal past, but some in his court are alarmed. Thus, evil men began to seek a way to short-circuit these liberalizing influences.

If only they could convince the Tsar that the voices of change he’s listening to are motivated by something other than the best interests of Russia – but how? It was in this environment that the greatest of all anti-Semitic lies was born. A threatening conspiracy would be manufactured - one that would bring Nicholas to his senses – and the Jews to their knees.

Mathieu Golovinski was living in Parisian exile at the time. Though he was Russian, having been born in the Simbirsk region in 1865, he was forced to flee after repeated clashes with Russian authorities, usually having to do with his tendency to fabricate documents and evidence in legal matters. He was a master of spin, innuendo, and dirty tricks. He was also very skilled in the arts of forgery and plagiarism.

And he worked for the Okhrana – the Tsar’s secret police.

He was approached by agents’ provocateur from the Tsar’s inner circle about creating a convincing anti-Jewish legend. They needed a narrative, one that would be seen as proof of a sinister plot behind the winds of change beginning to blow in Russia. Golovinski was commissioned to fabricate the evidence.

He came across an old book, written in 1864 by an anti-monarchist activist named Maurice Joly. It was entitled, Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquie and was written as a thinly disguised attack on Napoleon III’s rule in France. The book was suppressed by the French government and the writer was imprisoned. He committed suicide in 1878.

A plan was hatched to borrow from this obscure book, changing some of its cosmetics and phrasing. It would be recast, using Joly’s fictional dialogue for a model, as the actual deliberations of a secret cabal of Jews bent on taking over the world. When the fake was finished, it was spirited back to St. Petersburg, and all that would be needed was a way to get it before the ruler of the realm.

Enter the other religious zealot in and around the court of the Tsar.

When most think of religious influences around Nicholas II, attention is usually given to Grigori Rasputin, the mad monk who haunted that scene beginning about 1905. But often overlooked, and certainly more ominous as far as long-term impact on the world is concerned, is the influence of his cultic contemporary, Sergei Alexandrovich Nilus. He was a writer on religious matters and a self-styled spiritual mystic.

And he is also the man who first published Golovinski’s sinister forgery.

Initially placing the Protocols as a chapter in one of his books, Dr. Nilus saw to it that the potentate was fully briefed and convinced about the purported Jewish threat. And like Rasputin, he also had the ear of ruler’s wife – so the Tsar, never a man to have his own firm opinions, fell prey to the lie. And in the days following his nation’s defeat at the hands of the Japanese at a loss of several hundred thousand men, not to mention overwhelming financial expense, circumstances were ripe for the rotten fruit of a compelling scapegoat story.

On January 9, 1905, the Tsar’s troops opened fire on protesters who peacefully marched near the palace in St. Petersburg. This would become known as Bloody Sunday. The Tsar and his inner circle saw in the Protocols the real reason for the unrest – it was a big Jewish plot to overthrow the monarchy.

So it began – the gargantuan conspiratorial lie that has reared its hideous head time and time again over the past one hundred years. Jewish plotters were blamed for The Great War (1914-1918). Then in its aftermath, when Germany was struggling to recover from defeat, the big lie was discovered by the greatest demagogue of the day, Adolf Hitler. By the time the future German dictator was sent to prison in 1923, he was well versed in the Protocols and drew significantly from the forgery as he wrote his own hate-filled and delusional tome, Mein Kampf.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion became, to men already filled with anti-Semitic ideas, proof positive of a sinister Jewish agenda. To those who believed the lie, the writings were sufficient evidence for the indictment, condemnation, and eventual execution of these conspiratorial people. The Protocols in many ways fueled the Holocaust.

Yet all along, reasonable people – scholars, journalists, and statesmen – have gone to great lengths to expose the fraudulent nature of the Protocols. Beginning with a lengthy analysis in the Times of London in 1921, to a celebrated trial in Switzerland in 1935, to a report by the United States Senate in 1964, good people have said again and again: “the book’s a fake.” Good people still do.

It’s the bad people who are the problem.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the biggest publishing hoax of the past one hundred years, is not going away. This is largely because Islamists are using it, with great effectiveness, to fan contemporary flames of hatred. In fact, it’s arguable that there are more copies of this lie-laden text extant, than ever before. The forgery is used by politicians and clerics in the Muslim world to justify their distorted and destructive world-view.

Gamal Abdel Nassar, the late president of Egypt, recommended the book to his countrymen. His Saudi contemporary, King Faisal, had the forgery put in hotels in his nation, like Gideon Bibles (he once gave a copy to Henry Kissinger). The Ayatollah Khomeini, who took over in Iran in 1979, made the Protocols a national bestseller. An entire generation of Islamic thinkers and scholars now aggressively promotes the forgery as literal fact.

Hamas owes Article 32 of its charter to these long-ago-discredited writings when it says things like: “Zionist scheming has no end…Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of Zion.” And it’s, of course, a perennial favorite with Holocaust deniers such as that wacky Iranian, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Islamist anti-Semitism is at the root of the so-called War on Terror. The bad guys use the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as their proof-text. It would make sense that if we really want to eradicate the symptom we must deal frankly with the cause. Islamism isn’t an aberration. It’s an ideology based on prejudices rooted in the distant past and old lies that won’t seem to go away.

Shortly before his death in early 2005, the legendary pioneer of twentieth-century graphic art, Will Eisner, a man who spent much of his life debunking the infamous forgery, called the Protocols a “terrifying vampire-like fraud.”

Indeed. - DRS

Featured Articles — July 11, 2008

July 11, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Featured Articles | Leave a Comment 

Interesting Takes from Home and Abroad:

How Hostages, And Nations, Get Liberated By Charles Krauthammer
On the day the Colombian military freed Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other long-held hostages, the Italian Parliament passed yet another resolution demanding her release. Europe had long ago adopted this French-Colombian politician as a cause celebre. France had made her an honorary citizen of Paris, passed numerous resolutions and held many vigils.

‘Fair Doctrine’ hypocrisy By Derek Hunter
There’s a battle raging behind the scenes in Washington these days about our most fundamental right: the freedom of speech.

Capitalism’s Reality Check By E. J. Dionne
The biggest political story of 2008 is getting little coverage. It involves the collapse of assumptions that have dominated our economic debate for three decades.

Gaffe Alert! By Howard Fineman
McCain doesn’t need enemies. He has friends.

Stop the new FISA By Chris Hedges
Allowing the new surveillance law to stand would seriously cripple our free press.

Obama’s Changes Raise Issue: Can You Believe in Him? By Mort Kondracke
Maybe the biggest question of the 2008 presidential campaign is “Who is Sen. Barack Obama really?” Of late, the mystery is deepening.

The Saudi Dialogue By New York Sun Editors
Quite a drama is unfolding in advance of the World Conference on Dialogue that is being sponsored by the Saudi king and is scheduled to take place next week at Madrid. Last week all the talk was of the “breakthrough” that had been obtained by the invitation to the conference of an Israeli rabbi, David Rosen. In the event, however, Rabbi Rosen, who was born in England and has served as chief rabbi of Ireland, turns out to be listed in conference materials as being from America.

School Lessons From China By Andrew Wolf
Next week, some 30 educators from Shenzhen, China are attending seminars sponsored by the College of Mount St. Vincent “to study the concepts, practices, institutions, policies, and learning strategies embedded … specifically within New York City where test scores are ever improving, and put those concepts into practice back in China,” according to the announcement of the program released by the college.

Who Will Be President? By John O. McGinnis
An obscure government agency will soon decide whether citizens can get hold of information essential to modern democratic decision making. On Monday, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission began to analyze whether to create a safe harbor for prediction markets in the U.S., as these markets would otherwise be hamstrung by the strictures of financial trading laws. The CFTC should create the safe harbor.

The Justice Department, Blind to Slavery By John R. Miller
President Bush should meet with his own Department of Justice before he loses his legacy and his leadership on the abolition of human trafficking.

Featured Articles — July 10, 2008

July 10, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Featured Articles | Leave a Comment 

Interesting Takes from Home and Abroad:

Barack’s Brilliant Ground Game By Karl Rove
For a campaign that says it wants to end the politics of the Bush-Cheney years, the Obama for President effort has cribbed an awful lot from the Bush-Cheney playbooks of 2000 and 2004.

Iran’s Missile Threat By Wall Street Journal Editors
Talk about timing, perhaps fortuitous. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Prague signing an agreement that’s a first step toward protecting Europe from ballistic missile attack.

Our leaders are in carbon-cloud cuckoo land By Christopher Booker
For a perfect example of what is meant by “gesture politics” - an empty pledge given solely for effect, which the politician has no hope of honouring - one could not do better than this week’s commitment by the G8 leaders on how they want us to fight climate change.

Barack W. Bush? By Victor Davis Hanson
Almost everyone is talking about Barack Obama’s flip-flops, as the Senate’s most liberal member steadily moves to the political center and disowns firebrands like Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Father Michael Pfleger.

Beer: Is There Anything It Can’t Do? By George Will
Perhaps like many sensible citizens, you read Investor’s Business Daily for its sturdy common sense in defending free markets and other rational arrangements. If so, you too may have been startled recently by an astonishing statement on that newspaper’s front page.

November’s Electoral College Map By Larry Sabato
Nobody now knows the exact contours of the November 4th Electoral College map. Nobody will know them until after the polls have closed. But except for the guessing game about the vice presidential nominations, there’s no greater fun to be had in July.

The Guns of November By Michael Hirsh
Will Iran’s missile test force the region to war?

The Era of Big Punitive Damage Awards Is Not Over By Ted Frank
The Exxon Valdez case won’t count for much without state tort reforms.

The Pain of the G-8’s Big Shrug By Nicholas D. Kristof
The G-8’s collective shrug about the Darfur genocide — because the victims are black, impoverished and hidden from television cameras — will be a lingering stain.

TV(Nixon)Land

July 9, 2008 by Robert Nedelkoff | Filed Under American Politics, History, Richard Nixon, U.S. History | Leave a Comment 

Over in the “showbiz” area of CNN’s site, Todd Leopold interviews Rick Perlstein about Nixonland, and some of the TV programming of the era is discussed in the context of the historian’s America-in-conflict thesis, such as the Smothers Brothers variety show, All In The Family, Bob Hope’s specials, and Laugh-In (which, Leopold notes, included “an old Nixon hand,” the late Paul Keyes, on its writing staff).

Ich Bin Ein…..Halt!

July 9, 2008 by Robert Nedelkoff | Filed Under American Politics, Cold War, Democratic Party, Election 2008, History, International Affairs, Presidents, Russia, U.S. History | Leave a Comment 

I rather suspect Sen. Barack Obama is welcoming former Gov. Jesse Ventura’s reported plans to run against Al Franken and Sen. Norm Coleman for the latter’s seat. After all, once “The Mind” starts making the rounds of CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, the attention of the American public will be diverted not only from the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s latest faux pas regarding the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, but also from the latest example of Obama’s tendency to overreach himself in spectacular fashion.

It’s one thing for the gentleman from Illinois to plan to move his acceptance speech from the 22,000-capacity Pepsi Center in Denver, where he (presumably) will be nominated at the end of August, to 75,000-seat Invesco Stadium at Mile High, home of the NFL’s Broncos, much as John F. Kennedy, after being chosen by his party in the Los Angeles Sports Arena, moved his acceptance speech to Memorial Coliseum. After all, his soaring oratory usually works better when his audience is bigger, and having the Rockies for a background doesn’t hurt.

But it’s quite another thing when Obama, moving into his “statesman” mode, decides to lead off a visit to Germany, France and Britain later this month with an speech on July 24 in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

The Gate, built in the 1790s by order of Prussian Emperor Frederick William I, has been the symbol of German unity since 1870. In the 1930s, no Nazi parade in the city was complete without a procession through the Gate, as shown in this photo of Adolf Hitler riding through it on the way to the 1936 Olympics opening ceremony.

But after 1945, and especially after the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the Gate gained a greater significance. The western border of the Soviet zone of occupation in the city (and of Communist-controlled East Berlin) ran just a few feet in front of the gate, and thus concrete and barbed wire went up, barring West Berliners from access to the national landmark. This remained the case for 28 long years.

On June 26, 1963 - just under 45 years and a month before the date of Obama’s proposed speech - President Kennedy visited the area in front of the Gate (the East German authorities chose to hang black cloth banners between the pillars to obscure his view of their side of the city), then traveled to Schoneberg Rathaus, Berlin’s city hall. There, before a massive crowd that filled Rudolph Wilde Platz (renamed John F. Kennedy Platz after his assassination), the president spoke from the Rathaus’ balcony. His address, one of the finest of his career, ended with words that have never lost their resonance: “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (The question of whether some in the audience thought he was saying he was the German pastry of that name is still debated.)

Just under 24 years later on June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan visited Berlin and spoke directly in front of the Gate and the Wall. Before another enormous crowd he issued the challenge to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that, stunningly, was fulfilled just 29 months later: “Tear down this wall!”

But Obama’s hope to follow in the footsteps of JFK and the Gipper is being frustrated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has diplomatically, but unmistakably, made it known that in her view speeches at that hallowed monument of Cold War triumph and German nationhood are the province of leaders of nations, where politicians from overseas are concerned, not political candidates, whether or not they represent a unit within a nation as Obama represents Illinois. It’s hard to tell whether she can make that stick; Obama probably has a more enthusiastic following in Germany than any other European country, and in that land the media long since has anointed him der schwarzer Kennedy. But whether or not he does speak at the Brandenburg Gate, you have to wonder what he’s got up his sleeve for his birthday on August 4 - Scarlett Johannson singing “Happy Birthday” at Madison Square Garden, perhaps? (Assuming Michelle would permit it?)

When Is A Base No Base At All?

July 9, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Democratic Party, Election 2008, News media, Republican Party | Leave a Comment 

Joan Walsh, the editor of “Salon,” invites Sen. Obama not to take her vote for granted:

I’ve admired Obama, but I never confused him with a genuine progressive leader. Today I don’t admire him at all. His collapse on FISA is unforgivable. The only thing Obama has going for him this week is that McCain is matching him mis-step for mis-step,,,But Obama needs to watch himself. Telling voters they have no place else to go, before he officially has the nomination, is not a winning strategy.

Walsh’s comments are a reminder that grasping for the center is not without risks. After all, a candidate could end up offending his or her base. And yet in the same post, Walsh shows why, in the base-offending derby, Obama really has nothing to worry about:

I came back from vacation to find the two presumptive presidential nominees running away from their bases. Suddenly John McCain is evading, not embracing, the media, limiting access and getting testy with the very people whose formerly friendly coverage made him a popular “maverick.” Meanwhile Barack Obama is complaining that his “friends on the left” just don’t understand him….

I can feel President Nixon’ pleasure. Obama’s base: Left-wing voters, who really do have nowhere else to go. McCain’s ostensible base: The media! For a Republican, that’s a base that’s certain to liquefy in the general election. Could McCain possibly have imagined otherwise?

Little Sister

July 9, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under Culture, Democratic Party, Election 2008 | 1 Comment 

As Jesse Jackson is revealed to have spoken vulgarly about Sen. Obama and his call to greater personal responsibility by African-American men, being featured tonight on FOX News, Andrew Sullivan writes:

Obama gets his Sistah Souljah moment handed to him on a plate … by Bill O’Reilly.

I’m having trouble parsing this. Candidate Bill Clinton was thought to have consolidated his standing with swing voters by condemning a rap artist’s lyrics. From that signal moment in 1992 comes Wikipedia’s SSM definition:

[A] Sister Souljah moment is a politician’s public repudiation of an allegedly extremist person or group, statement, or position perceived to have some association with the politician or their party. Such an act of repudiation is designed to signal to centrist voters that the politician is not beholden to traditional, and sometimes unpopular, interest groups associated with the party, although such a repudiation runs the risk of alienating some of the politician’s allies and the party’s base voters.

So who’s Sister Souljah this time? Or rather, who’s the inconvenient extremist? Certainly not Jackson himself, a still formidable lion of the civil rights movement. Jackson was privately suggesting that the candidate might lose black votes by appearing to lecture black men without putting enough stress on economic justice issues. Mightn’t he be right? If so, that can’t help Obama, especially in the deep south.

Or is Sullivan saying that Obama earns props with skeptical whites thanks to Jackson calling attention to Obama’s pro-responsibility message — or thanks to his criticizing black people in general, which presumably proves that the black candidate isn’t overly beholden to blacks? That would mean Sister Souljah is the African-American electorate. Hard to see how that helps Obama, either.

I’ll bet this neither helps nor hurts. The veteran put a shot across the the rookie’s bow — more dutch uncle than Sister Souljah.

The New Obama Is The Old New Nixon

July 9, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Democratic Party, Election 2008, Richard Nixon | Leave a Comment 

Tony Sachs helps explain Sen. Obama’s lurching grasp for the political center:

If this election year resembles any in recent history, it’s 1968. That year, the Democratic administration of Lyndon Johnson had bogged the country down in a deeply unpopular war, and its domestic policies seemed to have run off the rails. The electorate, while still largely liberal, was ready to take a step back and catch its collective breath. And into the breach stepped Richard Nixon. He may have seemed pretty conservative at the time with his message of “law and order,” but he’d probably be considered too liberal to even have a shot at the Democratic nomination today. After all, the guy founded the Environmental Protection Agency, established detente with China, and was a strong proponent of affirmative action, to name just a few….

Progressives and liberals who think that the country is ready to lurch to the left after four decades of surging right are jumping the gun. The pendulum is starting to swing back in a liberal direction, but it’s still got a ways to go. While America is deeply dissatisfied with its conservative leadership, I think it’s the Republican party that’s in the voters’ crosshairs, not the conservative consensus itself. To elect a far-left liberal in 2008 would be like Reagan getting elected in 1968, or FDR gaining the White House in 1924. The country simply isn’t ready yet. The liberals’ time will come again — just not this year.

No Atheists On The Petrol Lines?

July 9, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under Faith | Leave a Comment 

Melissa Kite, the Real Life columnist for the British “Spectator” as well as deputy political editor of the Sunday Telegraph, was surprised when people took offense at a recent Neil Diamond concert in which the man who sang “Holly Holy” proclaimed himself a man of God. A fallen-away Catholic, she understands why people don’t go to church much anymore. “Religions have never done the man upstairs any favors,” she writes — yet adding,

But, given a choice, I think I still prefer…rigidly unyielding belief to no belief at all. Especially now we’re facing recession. After all, who perfected the art of being happy without material possessions? That’s right. We’re all going to be needing a way of life which makes sense of having nothing soon. Good job He doesn’t bear a grudge.

You Are What You Byte

July 9, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under Culture, Richard Nixon | Leave a Comment 

To boost Windows sales, Microsoft is going after the “quiet majority” (pace President Nixon’s silent majority). If you buy the Chris Matthews-Rick Perlstein unified field theory of RN’s psychology (which I don’t), then PC users are Orthogonians and Mac users, Franklins.

Pennsylvania Avenue At Rush Hour, Post-Sept. 11

July 9, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under Terrorism | Leave a Comment 

pensylvania-avenue.JPG

The view in front of the White House at 4 p.m. Tuesday

Nixonland Nitpick 3

July 9, 2008 by Jack Pitney | Filed Under American Politics, Richard Nixon, Uncategorized | 6 Comments 

Rick Perlstein writes (p. 137):

Richard Nixon broke with his reluctance to dwell upon law and order only once, in 1966, in that U.S. News essay — and had seemed to be apologetic to be raising the matter at all, concluding, “The polls still place the war in Vietnam and the rising cost of living as the major political issues of 1966.”  He was lying.  As far as domestic issues went, Gallup showed race far outstripped inflation as a concern.

The essay in question appeared in the magazine’s edition of August 15, 1966.  But Perlstein cites a poll that came out several weeks later, on September 11 (see Nixonland endnotes at p. 766).  At the time that Nixon wrote the essay, the latest Gallup survey on “the most important problem” had come out on May 27.  The top three answers were:

  • Vietnam crisis 45%
  • High cost of living 16%
  • Civil rights 9%

On this point, Nixon was telling the truth.  Nixonland is wrong.

Source:  George Gallup, The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 1935-1971 (New York: Random House, 1972), 2009, 2026.

Benedict Al-Maliki?

July 9, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under International Affairs, Iraq War | Leave a Comment 

Time’s Abigail Hauslohner agues that the Iraqi Prime Minister’s suggestive language about “foreign presence” are not just words.

“The Mind” Running

July 9, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under American Politics, Election 2008 | Leave a Comment 

Jesse “the Mind” Ventura has announced on NPR today that he might be running as an independent in a three way race for Minnesota Senator against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democratic-Labor satirist Al Franken. Seemingly disinterested during his last days as governor, this announcement might just have some legs as being a no-show for roll call has become fashionable as of late.

Making Change

July 9, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Election 2008, Richard Nixon | Leave a Comment 

Arguing that Sens. McCain and Obama disagree about plenty, Michael Medved says this year’s crop of “not a dime’s worth of difference” independent candidates are selling voters a bill of goods. That goes for the originator of the cliche himself:

Former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace ran his entire 1968 campaign (as standard-bearer for the hastily assembled “American Independent Party”) based on the slogan that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference” between his two opponents, Nixon and Humphrey, claiming they both kowtowed to the same “pointy-headed intellectuals.” In retrospect, any comparison of the careers, character and ideology of Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey reveals that even in that pre-inflation era, the value of their differences amounted to more than ten cents.

Featured Articles — July 9, 2008

July 9, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Featured Articles | Leave a Comment 

Interesting Takes from Home and Abroad:

My Plan to Escape the Grip of Foreign Oil By T. Boone Pickens
One of the benefits of being around a long time is that you get to know a lot about certain things. I’m 80 years old and I’ve been an oilman for almost 60 years.

Europe’s Fear By Alvaro Vargas Llosa
The European Parliament’s decision to pass a new law allowing member countries to imprison undocumented aliens for up to 18 months and deport children has reignited the debate over immigration, one of the most sensitive issues of our time.

Intellectuals Lies, The Powerless Die. By Ralph Peters
Mugabe: Unmoved by hand-wringers.

The Veep Picks: What’s the Rush? By David Von Drehle
Suddenly, everyone wants to talk about running mates. Tomorrow’s trivia questions are the titans of today — Midwestern governors, swing state senators, retired generals.

FISA’s Fetters by Washington Post Editors
Concerns about the new foreign surveillance measure are overblown.

Maliki’s Withdrawal Card By Wall Street Journal Editors
A year ago, the conventional Beltway wisdom had it that Iraq was a failed state. Today, the same wisdom holds that it is less chaotic but still fragile, dependent entirely on a U.S. presence to survive.

Losing the Latino Vote by Matthew Continetti
McCain’s prospects don’t look good.

The media and enduring narrative By Caroline Glick
The disproved al-Dura shooting, the mythological Jenin massacre and the fabricated Kafr Kana bombing stand out for their strategic impact on the course of events.

Axelrod’s Fall Reifenstahl Strategy By Lee Cary
This fall, watch for David Axelrod, Obama’s campaign manager, to choreograph at least two post-convention mass events at least slightly reminiscent of the stagecraft of Leni Reifenstahl in 1934 Germany.

Obama running in place on Iraq By Roger Simon
Obama says he’s going to Iraq to talk to military people there and “continue to refine” his Iraq policy.

Shakeup At The Post

July 8, 2008 by Robert Nedelkoff | Filed Under News media | 1 Comment 

As noted by John Taylor below, Marcus Brauchli, a 25-year veteran of the Wall Street Journal, who was its managing editor from April 18, 2007, until resigning just over a year later following Rupert Murdoch’s takeover, has been named the executive editor of the Washington Post, replacing Leonard Downie Jr. Brauchli is only the third person to hold that job at the Post since Ben Bradlee was appointed in 1968, and he is one of the rather rare high-level Post appointees to have spent a career working outside the paper.

Brauchli’s background is interesting, in terms of what it may portend for the Post’s future. The greater part of his career at the Journal was spent as a foreign correspondent, based in Hong Kong, Scandinavia and Tokyo successively. In an era when many American newspapers which prided themselves on foreign coverage, such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Baltimore Sun, have cut back drastically on overseas staff, the Post has continued to maintain a strong international presence, and Brauchli’s appointment seems to suggest this will continue.

Another area in which Brauchli was prominent in recent years, as news editor and managing editor, was in the redesign of the Journal to a smaller page size and a more compact layout, to save printing costs. Despite some cosmetic changes here and there in the last decade, today’s Post is not very different, in layout or page size or number of pages, from the Post of 1982. The Washington Times recently did a radical redesign (cutting down on the number of pages and shortening the average length of the articles) and it could be that Brauchli, in the coming months, will be steering the paper toward changes of this kind.

Here’s the Post’s account of his hiring, with a video clip. If the paper’s publisher Katharine Weymouth somehow reminds readers of Tina Weymouth, formerly of the Talking Heads and occasionally of the Tom Tom Club (which made one of my wife’s alltime favorite records, “Genius Of Love”), that’s only natural because she’s Tina’s niece.

Gathering Of The Realists

July 8, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under Iraq War, The National Interest, Vietnam | Leave a Comment 

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Gvosdev, Rosenthal, and Scowcroft

For Nixonians, the second biggest media story in Washington this week was the naming of a new executive editor at the Washington Post. The first was the official welcome of the new editor of “The National Interest,” the influential foreign policy journal published bimonthly by The Nixon Center.

“She’s a rock star,” said Center President and TNI publisher Dimitri Simes in introducing Justine A. Rosenthal, who will bring a wide range of experience in government and think tanks and as a journalist and teacher to her new job as editor of a publication widely noted, said Center board member Brent Scowcroft, for its promotion “of what I call enlightened realism” in foreign policy. Dr. Rosenthal, who has been TNI executive editor as well as editor of its on-line presence, promised some surprises while building faithfully on foundations left by outgoing editor Nick Gvosdev, who reports later this month to the Naval War College in Newport, RI as a professor of international relations.

Fifty colleagues and friends gathered tonight at The Center’s offices on L Street to welcome Justine and say farewell to Nick, among them Jacob Heilbrunn, TNI senior editor and an influential foreign policy journalist. In the July-August issue, Heilbrunn has this to say in his review of a new book about the “first foreign policy neoconservative,” Walt Rostow, who helped spur Presidents Kennedy and Johnson into that great liberal crusade-turned-quagmire in Indochina:

As McCain promises a ramped-up effort in Iraq, while the Democrats argue for caution and restraint, something fundamental has been lost in the GOP — a sense of the limits of American power that Eisenhower and Nixon accepted and that the cold-war liberals surrounding Kennedy and Johnson chafed at.

McCain Prominent with Faithful Voters

July 8, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Election 2008, Religion | 1 Comment 

Here are the statistics from the Gallup Organization.

Sen. Obama is the New Wartime Nixon

July 8, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Election 2008, Iraq War | Leave a Comment 

Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal argues that in Nixon-like fashion, Sen. Obama has a secret plan to end the war in Iraq.

Nixonland Nitpick 2

July 8, 2008 by Jack Pitney | Filed Under Book Review, Richard Nixon | 2 Comments 

Describing the 1962 California GOP gubernatorial primary between Richard Nixon and Joe Shell, Rick Perlstein writes (p. 60):

Nixon’s primary victory over Shell was humiliatingly close.

Shell did hurt Nixon by undermining his conservative support and forcing him to divert resources to the primary contest. But Nixon won 1,285,151 votes (66.19 percent of the major-candidate vote) to Shell’s 656,542 (33.81 percent). This 2-1 margin was not “humiliatingly close.”

Nelson Rockefeller at 100

July 8, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under American Politics, In Memoriam | Leave a Comment 

Today is the 100th anniversary of Nelson A. Rockefeller’s birth. The world was —and remains— a better place for the life-enhancing presence of that particular polymath politician, philanthropist, connoisseur, collector — and RN nemesis.

The former Governor and Vice President’s biographer, Richard Norton Smith, wrote a pre-birthday tribute in yesterday’s New York Times (noted here by John Taylor). In a column in today’s New York Post, the Manhattan Institute’s E. J. McMahon takes a rather different view (and takes on, incidentally, our friend Rick Smith’s article).

How typical of Rocky. 100 years old and still stirring things up.

The Russia Houses

July 8, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under Nixon Administration figures, Russia | Leave a Comment 

An optimistic-sounding Henry Kissinger thinks Russia’s new President, Dimitry Medvedev, is more than a stalking bear for President-turned-PM Putin:

My impression is that a new phase of Russian politics is underway. The move of Putin’s office from the Kremlin to the building housing the government could be symbolic. Medvedev has said that he means to chair the National Security Council and, as Russia’s constitution provides, be the public face of foreign policy. The statement that the president designs foreign and security policy, and the prime minister implements it, has become the mantra of Russian officials. I encountered no Russian in or out of government who doubted that some kind of redistribution of power was taking place, although they were uncertain of its outcome….Whatever the ultimate outcome, the last Russian election marks a transition from a phase of consolidation to a period of modernization. The ceding of power by a ruler at the height of his influence is unprecedented in Russian history. The growing complexity of the economy has generated the need for predictable legal procedures, as already foreshadowed by Medvedev. The government’s operation — at least initially — with two centers of power may, in retrospect, appear to be the beginning of an evolution toward a form of checks and balances. A Russian democracy is not foreordained, of course. But neither was the democratic evolution in the West.

Folly The Leader

July 8, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under Democratic Party, Election 2008, Iraq War | Leave a Comment 

The Washington Post likes Sen. Obama’s shift on Iraq. Its lead editorial this morning:

In fact, Mr. Obama can’t afford not to update his Iraq policy. Once he has the conversations he’s promising with U.S. commanders, he will have plenty of information that “contradicts the notion” of his rigid plan. Iraq’s improvement means that American forces probably can be reduced next year, but it would be folly to begin a forced march out of the country without regard to the risks of renewed sectarian warfare and escalating intervention in the country by Iran and other of Iraq’s neighbors.

I wonder if the Post’s editors called Obama’s Iraq policy folly during the primaries.

Featured Articles — July 8, 2008

July 8, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Featured Articles | Leave a Comment 

Interesting Takes from Home and Abroad:

Finding Common Ground With Russia By Henry Kissinger
President Bush’s meeting with Dmitry Medvedev in Hokkaido yesterday provides an opportunity to review American relations with the new Russian leadership. Conventional wisdom treated Medvedev’s inauguration as president of the Russian Federation as a continuation of President Vladimir Putin’s two terms of Kremlin dominance and assertive foreign policy.

Will Israel Attack Iran? By Robert Kaplan
As the most pro-Israel administration in Washington since Harry Truman enters its last six months in office, Israel faces a strategic choice. Will it use the possible indulgence of the Bush Administration to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, or will it wait and face an uncertain future with a new American president?

The aid Africa can’t afford By Edward N. Luttwak and Marian L. Tupy

If the G-8 really wants to help, it should cut off funds for dysfunctional states.

Way past time for U.S. to recommit to Afghanistan By Bob Casey
In the days and weeks following the horrific events of 9/11, the American people recognized that we could never again allow al-Qaeda or a related group to gain the sanctuary needed to plan and train for another terrorist attack on American soil or against our allies.

The Growth Solution By Carl Schramm and Robert E. Litan
With America’s new economic realities, an entrepreneurial agenda is in order.

Put War Powers Back Where They Belong By James Baker and Warren Christopher
THE most agonizing decision we make as a nation is whether to go to war. Our Constitution ambiguously divides war powers between the president (who is the commander in chief) and Congress (which has the power of the purse and the power to declare war).

Save D.C’s School Vouchers By Margaret Spellings
Better schools. Higher scores. And satisfied parents. That’s the record of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. It is helping us keep our promise to leave no child behind in America. If Congress is thinking of breaking this promise, the nation deserves to know the story.

The Market Is Responding to the Oil Shock By Rod Hunter
Viable electric cars may be closer than you think.

Obama Risks Losing Pro-Viet Cong Vote

July 7, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Democratic Party, Iraq War, Vietnam | Leave a Comment 

Tom Hayden 1) repeats “secret plan” canard and 2) expresses concern about Sen. Obama’s evolving Iraq views. Hayden demands that the Democratic candidate huddle with “legitimate representatives of the peace movement.” Fat chance.

Some True Words Spoken In Jest

July 7, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Culture, Entertainment | Leave a Comment 

For those of us who grew up memorizing every word —indeed, every inflection— on Tom Lehrer’s LPs, the name and accomplishments of the late doctor Samuel Gall are as familiar (and as funny) today as they were the first time we heard them on An Evening (Wasted) with Tom Lehrer back in 1959.

For the brief shining window of a few years in the late ’50s, the Harvard math whiz and erstwhile professor became the embodiment of hyper cool snark — almost half a century before snark was even invented by Wonkette. Talk about being ahead of one’s time.

Tom Lehrer described Dr. Gall to his audience:

Now, I’m sure you’re all aware that this week is national gall-bladder week. So as sort of an educational feature at this point I thought I would acquaint you with some of the results of my recent researches into the career of the late doctor Samuel Gall, inventor of the gall-bladder — which certainly ranks as one of the more important technological advances since the invention of the joy-buzzer and the dribble-glass.

Doctor Gall’s faith in his invention was so dramatically vindicated last year, as you no doubt recall, when, for the first time in history, in a nation-wide poll the gall-bladder was voted among the top ten organs.

His educational career began interestingly enough in agricultural school, where he majored in animal husbandry, until they caught him at it one day.

Whereupon he switched to the field of medicine in which field he also won renown as the inventor of gargling, which prior to that time had been practiced only furtively by a remote tribe in the Andes who passed the secret down from father to son as part of their oral tradition.

He soon became a specialist, specializing in diseases of the rich. He was therefore able to retire at an early age.

Now it appears that Mr. Lehrer was as good a prophet as he was a comic. In yesterday’s New York Times, Eric Konigsberg writes at some length about the new psychiatric/psychoanalytical medical specialty.

After enjoying great popularity in the UK during the mid-1960s as part of David Frost’s team on TW3, Tom Lehrer pretty much retired from the entertainment scene and concentrated on teaching at such places as Harvard, MIT, and Wellesley. Although it is apparently true that he said awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger in 1973 made political satire obsolete, it isn’t true that that was the reason for his withdrawal from the comedy scene.

Some examples of prime Lehreriana are his songs about the user-friendly liberal reforms of the Second Vatican Council (“The Vatican Rag”), the pieties of National Brotherhood Week, and the controversy over making Germany part of the multilateral force (MLF) with its nuclear capability (“MLF Lullaby”). And, of course, there was the Ur song in which he set the Table of Periodic Elements to Gilbert and Sullivan.

Today the eighty-year-old Tom Lehrer lives in Santa Cruz. He is planning to vote for Senator Obama.

The Canard That Will Not Die

July 7, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Election 2008, Richard Nixon, Vietnam | Leave a Comment 

RN’s “secret plan” to end the Vietnam war is the Dracula of canards. No matter how many wooden stakes are nailed through its nasty heart, it’s up again at first light, brushing off the dirt and walking the land ready to be cited in yet another book or article.

Two weeks ago it surfaced in Time and, one would have thought, our colleague Jack Pitney more than effectively hammered home a big wooden stake.

But it’s already back again in today’s Wall Street Journal, where the usually dependable Bret Stephens serves up “Obama’s Nixon Reprise” — in which he tries to tie (starting with the first paragraph) RN’s “secret plan” to end the Vietnam war during the 1968 campaign with Senator Obama’s current shape shifting regarding his promises to pull out of Iraq:

Richard Nixon came to office with a rumored secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. Maybe Barack Obama’s plan to end the war in Iraq is going to wind up being a secret, too.

RN never said he had a plan — “secret” or otherwise. His position throughout the campaign —which was both responsible as a citizen and sensible as a candidate— was that, given the peace talks being conducted in Paris, anything specific he said might undercut the administration. The phrase “secret plan” was part of a question asked him at a town meeting in New Hampshire during the primary. A UPI story attributed the phrase to RN and the rest is, well, you know what the rest is.

It is argued that RN never actually disowned the phrase and is, therefore, at least guilty by association with the phrase even if he didn’t say it. But that kind of argument, if seriously intended, is too naive by half. Any such statement would have produced the headline: Nixon Has No Plan To End War.

Even Wikipedia, which is not averse to retailing Nixon criticism, isn’t buying this particular old chestnut anymore:

In the 1968 Presidential campaign, Richard Nixon stated that “new leadership will end the war” in Vietnam. He never used the phrase “secret plan”, which originated with a reporter looking for a lead to a story summarizing the Republican candidate’s (hazy) promise to end the war without losing.

Nuff said. At least until the next time it has to be said again.

Nixonland Nitpick 1

July 7, 2008 by Jack Pitney | Filed Under Richard Nixon | 1 Comment 

Whatever its virtues, Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland contains a number of factual errors. In the weeks ahead, I shall note some of them. The first deals with the 1950 Democratic senatorial primary in Florida (p. 34):

George Smathers beat Florida senator Claude Pepper by accusing him of being a “sexagenarian,” committing “nepotism” with his sister-in-law, openly proud of a sister who Smathers said was a “thespian.”

No, the story is an urban legend. Apparently it started as a joke that Time magazine mistakenly reported as fact. An annoyed Smathers offered $10,000 to anyone who could prove that he ever said any such thing. When he died in 2007, no one had ever claimed the money.

Someday Nixon’s Smith Will Come

July 7, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Presidents, Republican Party | Leave a Comment 

In the New York Times on the same day, op-ed paeans to a pair of moderate Republicans: Eisenhower by historian Jean Edward Smith and Rockefeller by his biographer, Richard Norton Smith (no relation).

Family Sues to Block Kantar

July 7, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under International Affairs, Islam, Israel and Palestinians, Terrorism | Leave a Comment 

In light of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s slapdash decision to release a convicted terrorist responsible for the brutal murder of a father and his young daughter in 1979, the Shahar family is now petitioning the Israeli Supreme Court to block the swap for the bodies of IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

David Eisenhower And RN’s No-Hitter

July 7, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under Nixon family, Richard Nixon, Sports | Leave a Comment 

David Eisenhower writes with his more-acute-than-mine recollection of being with RN in George Steinbrenner’s box for Dave Righetti’s no-hitter, 25 years ago Independence Day:

What I remember best about the game was that in the 9th, manager Billy Martin decided to stick with his starting outfielders (Lou Pinella and Steve Kemp) instead of sending in defensive substitutions– a move probably dictated by superstition and one that I felt put the Righetti no-hitter at risk. We spent the entire top of the ninth yelling– all of us– and I spent it yelling about the outfielders. But Martin stuck to his guns and in hindsight, he was right. I remember the high-fives, the excitement. it was my one and only live no-hitter also.

Dog Days in Tayside

July 7, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Culture, Islam, Islam and the West, Terrorism | Leave a Comment 

Tayside is a town near Dundee in Scotland. The local constabulary’s slogan is “Here for you” and, as part of an advertising campaign, they selected a small black German shepherd puppy about to be trained, by his handler Mike, for the department’s K-9 squad. The idea was to give him his own website, with lots of photos and even a blog written in the “first” person.

Here’s how the pooch described the way he was named:

Well… I guess you’ve heard the news by now… my new name is Rebel! Not so much ‘Rebel Without A Cause’… but Rebel with big paws!

Greg MacBain at St Ninians Primary school put forward the name suggestion and Mike picked it out from hundreds of entries. Apparently he thinks it suits my personality… I don’t know what he means… woof!

Anyway, Mike still can’t get used to calling me Rebel. He’s been calling me ‘puppy’ for so long! I’m getting bigger and bolder by the day and, now that I have had all of my injections, I can start getting out and about in the community more.

I went to St Ninians School last Friday to meet up with Greg and all the lovely boys and girls… boy did I get a lot of attention.

The pupils managed to raise over £50 for the PDSA by charging 20 pence for every name suggestion. The vet from the PDSA came with me to the school to collect the cheque. I know that the money will be used to help some other animals who are not as fortunate as me.

In the afternoon I went to visit my agent Sarah at Force Headquarters and I got a little too excited and left a calling card for her at her desk… oops.

The campaign was successful beyond imagination. Rebel soon became a major local celebrity. The Tayside PD puppy training website received the numbers of hits that The New Nixon only dares to dream about during nights of very fevered sleep, and the TV crews weren’t far behind.

What a great idea. What could go wrong? What indeed.

Postcards featuring a photograph of Rebel sitting inside an overturned police hat next to a telephone —advertising a new number for non-emergency calls— were distributed throughout the community. That’s when the trouble began.

In today’s New York Post
, John O’Sullivan describes Rebel’s brief career cut short as a cautionary tale about out of hand multiculturism, and draws some not entirely comforting conclusions.

 

Featured Articles — July 7, 2008

July 7, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Featured Articles | Leave a Comment 

Interesting Takes From Home and Abroad:

So Where’s Murphy? By William Kristol
From the gun clubs of Northern Virginia to the sports bars of Capitol Hill — wherever D.C.-area Republicans gather — you hear the question: “Where’s Murphy?”

The Stand That Obama Can’t Fudge By By E. J. Dionne
When a candidate calls a second news conference to say the same thing he thought he said in the first one, you know he knows he has a problem.

Latino Vote Is in Play in Presidential Contest By Josh Gerstein
Senator Obama is battling hard against Senator McCain for Latino voters, with both campaigns seeing Hispanics as a demographic group that could swing battleground states in the presidential election.

Mr. Sammler’s City By Myron Magnet
Fear was a New Yorker’s constant companion in the 1970s and ’80s. We lived behind doors with triple locks, some like engines of medieval ironmongery.

Scorekeeper for Schools By Luis Huerta
The schools have graduated to a “different league,” proclaimed a triumphant Mayor Bloomberg in Harlem, announcing a meteoric rise in test scores at the end of June. But do these buoyant results and sparking celebrations around the state truly gauge student progress?

Healthier Than Europe Is By Daniel Johnson
Why is American democracy in much better health than its European counterpart? The widely-noted excitement generated by the Democratic primaries shows no sign of abating, now that the presidential campaign proper is underway, and 2008 promises to be an even more colorful contest than those of 2000 or 2004, both of which were hard-fought and close-run. The minority view, that President Bush’s victories were illegitimate or that the system was fatally flawed, never prevailed.

American Politics Aren’t ‘Post-Racial’ By Dorothy Rabinowitz
The latest follies at an Indianapolis university highlight a widespread problem.

FARC’s ‘Human Rights’ Friends By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
It’s no surprise the rebels bought the helicopter story.

Israel Is ‘Canceled’ in Berlin By Wall Street Journal Editors
But no hurt feelings, okay?

Obama’s Message to Europe
By Roger Cohen

When Senator Barack Obama meets with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the end of the month, he needs to remember the lessons of Berlin.

The India Nuclear Pact Lives On By Bill Emmott
The deal is that rare thing: a Bush foreign policy move that could look strategically smart to future historians.

We Are Not at War By Fareed Zakaria
The struggle against Islamic extremism is a long, mostly peacetime challenge.

July 4 Babe in the Morning

July 6, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under Culture, History | Leave a Comment 

July 4 Babe in the MorningBabe Ruth’s grave, in Gate of Heaven cemetery in Westchester County, New York, makes a great Independence Day pilgrimage. Besides being our quintessential national sport, baseball also celebrates the mid-July ritual of the All-Star game, being played for the last time this year in the House that Ruth Built. The Yankees move into their new stadium next year.

Thanks to Harvey Frommer for this account of the Yanks’ history-making 110-44 (that’s an all-time best .714) 1927 season, in which figures a dramatic July 4 doubleheader against their historic rivals from along the Potomac. New York was already 44-17 by the end of June. As the Yankees prepared to host Washington on July 4, denizens of the District anticipated that their Senators — riding a ten-game winning streak — were well-positioned for a pair of wins. But it wasn’t to be. New York took the first game, 12-1, and the nightcap, 21-1. After the fireworks, they never looked back, sailing all the way to the world championship. By season’s end Yankee right-fielder Ruth and first baseman Lou Gehrig had hit almost a quarter of the American League’s total homers that year.

Ruth died 60 years ago this August 16, felled by cancer at 53. His graveside is immediately opposite the mausoleum of the family of the late Robert Abplanalp, one of President Nixon’s best friends and a former board member of the Nixon Foundation. Also in Gate of Heaven is the gravesite of the beloved parents of President Nixon’s former chief of staff Kathy O’Connor, Jim and Pat Hannigan. Jim’s funeral and burial were Thursday. May light perpetual shine on them all.

Above All in the UAE

July 6, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Culture, Iraq War | Leave a Comment 

Last year rapper Mims had a #1 hit with his song “This Is Why I’m Hot”.

Now two young pilots stationed at Al Dhafra Air Force Base in the UAE have produced a very clever and well done parody: “This Is Why I’m Hot (Deployed Style)”.

The logic of Houck’s (aka Houck Daddy) and Simms’ adapted lyric is as indisputable as it is demonstrable:

I’m hot cause I’m deployed
You ain’t cause you not.

Here’s a shout out to the A Team —and all the members— of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. The Air Force should consider using this super cool look at grace under pressure as a recruiting tool.

A New Addition to the Ranks of Nixon Books

July 6, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Book Review, Richard Nixon | 1 Comment 

In today’s Washington Post Book World, NPR host Scott Simon writes a glowing review of Stephen L. Carter’s new novel of political and family intrigues in the 1960s, Palace Council. Mr. Carter, a professor at the Yale Law School and a bestselling and critically admired novelist, serves up a cast of characters that mixes his fictional creations with real people — including a just-pre-presidential RN.

Mr. Simon appears to be so surprised —and impressed— by Professor Carter’s “sympathetic” depiction of 37-in-waiting that he mentions it twice and then elaborates:

Carter’s vignettes of historic figures, including Hughes and Hoover, display both scholarship and imagination. But his portrait of Richard Nixon is pitch-perfect and sympathetic enough to remind us that, in 1960, Nixon was a more outspoken supporter of civil rights than Jack Kennedy (who was as reluctant to irritate the Southern segregationist powers of the Democratic Party as he had been to censure Joe McCarthy). The Nixon of Carter’s creation is socially awkward, sensitive to slights, frantic for approval and morally oblivious. He drags Eddie along to pay a midnight visit to students encamped on the National Mall before a huge rally against the war in Vietnam.

“Johnson’s war, not mine,” Nixon says to Eddie between bites of bacon over breakfast afterward. “Kennedy started it. Doesn’t matter. If it happens on your watch — and we can’t abandon them. Cut and run. America doesn’t do that. . . . Not a matter of right or wrong. Matter of reputation.”

It’s time, indeed, past time, that RN’s sterling civil rights record was reexamined and celebrated; so who cares if the revision begins embedded in fiction.

Now Carter’s hefty tome (514 pp.) can provide an escapist respite from Rosen (640), Black (1184), Rosen (640), and Perlstein in the growing stack of should- and must-reads (Lord Black’s biography) about the man who said that the one thing he never was was boring.

Featured Articles — July 6, 2008

July 6, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Featured Articles | Leave a Comment 

Interesting Takes From Home and Abroad:

Escorting the Fallen By George Will
Sometimes Beck would linger in his vehicle in front of an American home, like that of the parents of Lance Cpl. Kyle Burns in Laramie, Wyo. Beck knew that, as Jim Sheeler writes, every second he waited “was one more tick of his wristwatch that, for the family inside the house, everything remained the same.”

The American Debate: The Republican veepstakes By Dick Polman
Pursuit: Let’s try to guess whom John McCain picks as his running mate. It’s fun to speculate - even though, if history is any guide, we’ll probably all be wrong. Still, we can learn a lot about McCain’s candidacy, and the daunting challenges that he faces, simply by playing the veepstakes.

Obama’s Candidacy is a Test By Michael Barone
“They’re going to try to make you afraid of me,” Barack Obama told the audience at a Jacksonville fundraiser last month. “He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?” Obama was doing here by inference what many of his supporters do more explicitly.

Time for Iran to face more sanctions By Peter D. Zimmerman
THE DIRECTOR general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said last month that there was no danger that we would wake up one morning to find Iran the next nuclear power.

Keeping Tabs On Terrorist Communication By Scott Louis Weber
The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is an essential tool in the war against terrorists.

How Jesse Helms Made a Difference By John Fund
An uncompromisingly defiant conservative who rescued Reagan’s political career.

The Truth Commission By Nicholas D. Kristof
We need a national Truth Commission to investigate abuses in the aftermath of 9/11 and to begin a process of soul searching and national cleansing.

The Struggle for Civilization By Jack Lott
The “War on Terror” is over, even as combat with terrorists continues. The gulf between public perception and the grim reality couldn’t be greater or more important to bridge.

The Soundtrack Of Our Lives: The Troggs

July 5, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Entertainment | Leave a Comment 

Every Sunday, The Soundtrack of Our Lives looks back at some of the music that was popular forty years ago, around the time Richard Nixon ran for, and was elected, President.

LOVE IS ALL AROUND (Reg Presley) performed by THE TROGGS

The Troggs (originally The Troglodytes — a moniker that I like to think of as British kin to the Orthogonians) were a very rude band from the very polite English county of Hampshire. They only flourished for only a few years in the late 1960s but they produced several major hits on both sides of the Atlantic and managed to provide later inspiration for garage bands and punk rockers of no less note than Iggy Pop and the Ramones.

The Troggs’ first, and biggest, hit was “Wild Thing” (1966), written by American songwriter Chip Taylor. Forty-two years later, the punkish edge of the Troggs’ version fits easily into an established genre. But I can remember hearing it when it was first being played on the radio in England —when its only context was its own 2:33— and being bowled over by its immediacy and rawness. Admittedly, for sheer raw mastery, no other version of “Wild Thing” can come near Jimi Hendrix’s shattering (literally) performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, at the end of which he “sacrificed” his guitar by smashing and burning it on stage.

Trogg leader Reg Presley (born Reginald Ball, but the band’s manager changed the surname to Presley for marketing purposes without informing him), wrote songs for the band, and his hits included “With A Girl Like You,” “Any Way That You Want Me,” and “Love Is All Around”.

“Love Is All Around” was released in the UK at the end of 1967 and in the US early in ‘68; by February it was #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song, with its almost dirge-like major/minor progressions and tempo, is nothing if not minimal; but from very simple materials Presley managed to fashion a strangely insinuating tune for which he wrote uncharacteristically poetic lyrics.

In those pre-video days, the band produced an innovative “video” for the song, which today is as instructive as it is entertaining. Combining as it does the band members, a model who epitomizes the dolly bird look that Britain imposed on the world as the standard of coolness and hotness in the mid-1960s, psychedelia, lots of tinfoil, Carnaby Street gear, a brief hommage to Roy Lichtenstein, and some of the things four working class lads can get up to in a First Class compartment on British Rail, it serves as a sort of time capsule set to music.

The Troggs broke up, and not happily, in 1969. Some of their intense and profane quarrels were captured on tape, and are said to be the basis for the band’s arguments in Spinal Tap.

“Love Is All Around” has enjoyed a happily profitable —if sadly homogenized— after life. In 1991 it was covered by R.E.M. in an anodyne acoustic version that pretty much leached it of any personality or feeling. Ditto the Scottish band Wet Wet Wet’s extremely wet 1994 cover that was used on the soundtrack of the film Four Weddings and a Funeral and sat at #1 on the British charts for fifteen weeks. Reg Presley used the windfall profits to buy a new home and set up a foundation devoted to the study of crop circles.

The song was put to an entirely different use as part of a comic erotic Christmas dream sequence in the 2003 film Love Actually (and it’s not often that the words “comic” “erotic” and “Christmas” are used in the same sentence). Just think of the black-clad models in Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” video wearing abbreviated Santa costumes and you’ll get the idea. (The less imaginative —and more adventurous— adults can see what I’m talking about here.)

The Troggs’ complete oeuvre is available in a two disc box set Archeology — which even includes, as a bonus track, the tapes of the band fighting.

In Search Of The Cherry Tree

July 5, 2008 by Robert Nedelkoff | Filed Under Presidents, U.S. History | Leave a Comment 

In December 1799, George Washington, the foremost of America’s founding fathers, died of laryngitis and pseumonia at age 67, universally mourned by his countrymen.  The next year Mason Locke Weems, popularly known as “Parson” Weems (he was a part-time minister at a church in Lorton, Virginia, which Washington sometimes attended) published his biography of the first president.  It was compiled primarily from oral recollections, and thus relied heavily on anecdotes.  The most famous of these was recounted by Weems as follows:

The following anecdote is a case in point. It is too valuable to be lost, and too true to be doubted[…]  “When George,” said [an elderly lady who told Weems this story], ” was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet! of which, like most little boys, he was immoderately fond, and was constantly going about chopping everything that came in his way. One day, in the garden, where he often amused himself hacking his mother’s pea-sticks, he unluckily tried the edge of his hatchet on the body of a beautiful young English cherry-tree, which he barked so terribly, that I don’t believe the tree ever got the better of it. The next morning the old gentleman, finding out what had befallen his tree, which, by the by, was a great favourite, came into the house; and with much warmth asked for the mischievous author, declaring at the same time, that he would not have taken five guineas for his tree. Nobody could tell him anything about it. Presently George and his hatchet made their appearance. “George,” said his father, ” do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? ” This was a tough question; and George staggered under it for a moment; but quickly recovered himself: and looking at his father, with the sweet face of youth brightened with the inexpressible charm of all- conquering truth, he bravely cried out, “I can’t tell a lie, Pa; you know I can’t tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet.”–”Run to my arms, you dearest boy,” cried his father in transports, ” run to my arms; glad am I, George, that you killed my tree; for you have paid me for it a thousand fold. Such an act of heroism in my son is more worth than a thousand trees, though blossomed with silver, and their fruits of purest gold.”

For over two centuries, historians have pondered and debated this story.  Weems produced no other source to corroborate it, so much more often that not, experts and academics have treated it as legend.  One reason was that, after the mid-19th century, no one knew precisely where Washington had spent his boyhood, save that it was on a farm by the banks of the Rappahannock River opposite Fredericksburg, Virginia.

But on July 2 (also the anniversary of the approval of the Declaration of Independence by a vote of the Continental Congress in 1776, a date sometimes called “the real Independence Day”) David Muraca, director of archaeology for the George Washington Foundation, announced that site of the farm where Washington lived from the age of about six until his early twenties had been located, after excavations at three likely locations over seven years.  Meticulous excavations, focusing on what once was the cellar, have yielded up many shards of pottery and glass, wig cutters, and even toothbrush holders made of bone (for in his youth the future Father Of His Country still had some of his teeth).  So far no hatchet has turned up.  But there’s still a lot of digging to do.

To Be President: Obama And The War

July 5, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under American Politics, Democratic Party, Election 2008, Iraq War, Republican Party, Richard Nixon | 2 Comments 

Joe Conason may be right that Sen. McCain learned the wrong lessons from the U.S. defeat in Vietnam. In his speeches and comments, he’s talked about Johnson-era limits placed on commanders’ use of air power against communist North Vietnam. His analysis echoes anguished laments heard in the mid-1960s from Americans who were frustrated that the mighty military conglomeration that had obliterated Hitler was bogged down with Ho Chi Minh in southeast Asia. As quoted by Conason, here’s what he said to the Council on Foreign Relations:

We lost in Vietnam because we lost the will to fight, because we did not understand the nature of the war we were fighting, and because we limited the tools at our disposal.

But what about the long months of the Vietnam war when it no longer fell to brave Americans to fight at all? Rarely does McCain or anyone else talk about the period beginning in 1973, when South Vietnamese had taken over the war, relying on U.S. promises of continued non-personnel aid and air strikes when the communists violated the Paris Peace Accords.

Creating this completely new, Vietnamized theater was the work of Gen. Creighton Abrams, performed under political cover provided by Commander-in-Chief Nixon. South Vietnamese forces fought well all those months, notwithstanding their being a “joke” (according to Rick Perlstein) commanded by a “corrupt dictatorship” (Joe Conason). Mired in Watergate, we matched their mettle with mush. Neither Presidents Nixon or Ford felt they had the political capital to bomb as North Vietnam tested them with violations of the accords, and Congress slashed the aid budget. In the spring of 1975, Hanoi, which had trouble believing its good fortune, mounted a massive conventional invasion, greatly aided by their friends in Moscow, and squashed an ally we’d permitted to run out of bullets.

Historians, journalists, and bloggers rightly argue about how long Saigon could have held out with or without adequate levels of U.S. aid. But if she lasted 15 months after U.S. forces left, why not 20? 30? 100? In any event, since most Americans want out of Iraq, since Iraqification is almost everyone’s preference, the latter phase of the Vietnam war — the Nixon phase — is the one McCain and the Republicans might want to investigate as they ponder the politics and tactical realities of the situation they hope to inherit next January. Yet President Nixon has even disappeared from the McCain campaign’s version of his homecoming as a POW.

Instead, it’s Sen. Obama who’s displaying Nixonian subtlety in the calibration of his war policy. Like RN with Vietnam in the 1966 and 1968 elections, Obama has enjoyed the benefit of being able to say that the war was started by the other guys. After riding antiwar sentiment to victory in the primaries, he is beginning to give himself some wiggle room. Like Nixon, he would inherit a war that he wouldn’t have started. He would be wise to study how Nixon ended it.

Granted, Obama’s lurch to the center on Iraq and a variety of other issues has been ham-handed. The New York Times denounced his opportunism in an almost-blistering editorial, which no one will remember in November (unless Obama chooses to reproduce it in his swing-state advertising for the sake of right-leaning independents). But at least on Iraq, Obama’s is precisely the move his critics warned he’d make and pragmatic friends such as Andrew Sullivan insisted that he’d have to make.

If he seems changeable, perhaps that resonates with Americans who were opposed to the war in 2003 or ambivalent but now understand that a too-hasty withdrawal, no matter how much his Bush-hating base may wish it, would be bad for America’s position in the region, for the Iraqi people, and for those who volunteered to fight, bleed, and die. On Iraq, Obama’s doing what he must to do be elected President. It’s also what he should do if he’s going to be President.

Featured Articles — July 5, 2008

July 5, 2008 by Jonathan C. Movroydis | Filed Under Featured Articles | Leave a Comment 

Interesting Takes From Home and Abroad:

How Jesse Helms Made a Difference By John Fund
If Ronald Reagan was the sunny and optimistic face of modern conservatism, the uncompromisingly defiant exemplar of it was Jesse Helms, who died yesterday at age 86.

Hooray for Uribe By Michael C. Moynihan
Two cheers—but only two—for Colombia’s president.

The Sharia debate: we can’t all be equal under different laws By Matthew Paris
Allowing British Muslims recourse to Islamic law would be a charter for male dominance and peer-group bullying.

Alexander Hamilton’s Capital Compromise By Fergus M. Bordewich
History would have been very different if the federal government had been located somewhere else.

A good-enough spy law By Nancy Soderberg
The FISA bill isn’t perfect, but it’s a compromise that the Senate should accept.

The US in the Mideast: ignorance abroad By Rami G. Khouri
One of the frightening lessons one learns from spending time in Washington is that most of the men and women who make, or influence, American policy in the Middle East actually have little or no first-hand experience of the region.

Canada just became a utopia for U.S. military deserters By Jonathan Kay
Since the war in Iraq began, dozens of U.S. military deserters have come to Canada. Thanks to the Federal Court of Canada, that trickle may soon become a flood.

The Imaginative Analysis of Seymour Hersh By Max Boot
Reading a Seymour Hersh article is a bit like panning for gold: You have to dig through a lot of dirt to find any nuggets of possible value.

The Last Patrol By Michael M. Phillips
U.S. Troops in Afghanistan, Set to Leave, Are Called Back For One More Mission. Will Their Luck Run Out?

Cause for Alarm By Bob Herbert
Symbols of patriotism have replaced the hard work and sacrifice required to keep a great nation great.

RN’s Historic First At Yankee Stadium

July 4, 2008 by John H. Taylor | Filed Under Richard Nixon, Sports | 3 Comments 

This AP article contains retired Yankees pitcher Dave Righetti’s reflections on his Fourth of July no-hitter 25 years ago tonight and mentions that President Nixon was in attendance, sitting in owner George Steinbrenner’s box. His son-in-law David Eisenhower was there, too, as were Marin Strmecki and I, his editorial assistants.

Normally for a night out with RN, we’d wear coats and ties, but he’d graciously sent word that since it was going to be hot, we should dress comfortably. For the first six or seven innings, other VIPs would stop by to schmooze with RN and David, as usually happened when they were Steinbrenner’s guests. But then there was a gathering intensity in Yankee Stadium (not that anybody dared say why). As the AP article discloses, the Yankees hadn’t had a regular season no-hitter for 32 years; and Wikipedia says a Yankee lefty hadn’t thrown one since 1917. So everybody left them alone. Both keen, intense fans, they sat still and silent, studying every pitch by the 24-year-old Righetti.

When he struck out Wade Boggs to end the game, President Nixon jumped in the air like a 12-year-old and pounded his hands together. He told us that in all his years attending baseball games in New York, Washington, and California, he’d never seen a no-hitter live.

Before he left, he unveiled one of his famous yellow legal pads, filled with notes written with a fountain pen — the outline of his next book, Real Peace: A Strategy for the West, which he’d completed the day before. And I had him and David sign my scorecard.

TNN Weekend Reward: Aretha’s “Nessun Dorma”

July 4, 2008 by Frank Gannon | Filed Under Culture, Entertainment | Leave a Comment 

You’re the Producer of the 1998 Grammy Award Show.You’ve booked Radio City Music Hall and there will be live prime-time live TV coverage.

One of the highlights of the evening will be the presentation of a “Legend” award to tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who will sing “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s opera Turandot — the aria he has singlehandedly turned into an international hit-cum-anthem.

You’ve hired a full symphony orchestra and a massed choir to back up the big guy and commissioned a suitably chinois backdrop.

You pat yourself on the back for having conceived 3.30 of gold standard entertainment. What could go wrong?

What indeed. Less than twenty-four hours before air time, the phone rings and you’re informed that Maestro Pavarotti is indisposed and won’t be able to attend, much less perform.

After you’ve finished throwing things and crying, you put on your thinking cap. You come up with one of the world’s all-time great ideas and you make a call. You keep your fingers crossed. And the result, in the highest traditions of show business rescues and live performances under great pressure, is Aretha Franklin —indisputably a diva, if from another branch of the business— stepping in to save the day.

And stepping in literally. It was too late to transpose the music or prepare new parts for the already-rehearsed orchestra and chorus. So The First Lady of Soul sang it as it lay. By doing so she brought out new heights and —more to the point— unimagined depths in her amazing voice; she also revealed entirely new levels of musicality in Puccini’s marvelously manipulative old war horse.

The result has to be one of the most thrilling three-plus minutes in entertainment history.

Ms. Franklin subsequently sang the aria for an audience that included President Clinton at the 1998 White House Correspondents’ Dinner; and she added a recording of it as a bonus track on an album of duets. But improved audio and (at least to these aging ears) a slightly higher setting, fail to equal the palpable intensity of that first live triumph out there alone on the high wire.

The only available video on YouTube is of slightly less than optimal quality; and it isn’t available for embedding, so to earn this week’s Weekend Reward, TNN readers, having made allowances for audio limitations, will have to double lick here: Aretha Franklin sings “Nessun Dorma”.

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