The terrorists’ message was clear: Stay away from Mumbai or you will get killed. Cricket matches with visiting English and Australian teams have been shelved. Japanese and Western companies have closed their Mumbai offices and prohibited their employees from visiting the city. Tour groups are canceling long-planned trips.
But the best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever. Dream of making a good home for all Mumbaikars, not just the denizens of $500-a-night hotel rooms. Dream not just of Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan, but of clean running water, humane mass transit, better toilets, a responsive government. Make a killing not in God’s name but in the stock market, and then turn up the forbidden music and dance; work hard and party harder.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
"Thomas More was a man fighting for his life," the actor says, sitting in a Manhattan hotel room just a few hours before curtain time. "And, to a certain degree, Richard Nixon was a man fighting for his life, for respect. What's important in each case is to bring across a sense of what motivated them to persevere."
The perfect couple live blissfully self-indulgent lives until circumstances find them spending Christmas Day at separate festivities overseen by their parents, wonderfully rendered by Robert Duvall (who's flying a POW-MIA flag; you may thereby deduce how Hollywood portrays him and his relations), the cougarific Mary Steenburgen and Sissy Spacek, and real-life dad of the parental boundary-enforcing Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight.
In the cut-and-thrust of embarrassing revelations, relived childhood rituals, and after-dinner board games, Brad and Kate realize that they can't so easily discard their fated genes. Indeed, as the movie suggests, if we're lucky (or, rather, intentional), we'll fashion coherent or at least authentic lives by embracing our family settlements, iffy or not. The greatest disappointment of "Four Christmases" is that in the end Brad and Kate don't seem to have fully absorbed these incarnational realities. The best things, besides that great lineup of moms and dads, are Vaughn and Witherspoon's chemistry, wordplay, and hi jinks. Think "Wedding Crashers" with baby puke.
Dramatists love straw characters. Obviously, Washington's media and political elites won't act like that. Would anyone with a brain tell an historian, "You weren't at the Battle of the Wilderness, so keep your opinions to yourself"? They'll probably jostle one another for photos with Morgan and autographs for their "Queen" DVDs.
Morgan uses the device to explain the advantages for the moviegoer of his gift of a more objective, less emotionally involved perspective:
As a European from a different, younger generation, I wasn't really gripped by the trauma that was Nixon's presidency.... The horrors and betrayals that Nixon visited upon his electorate left me comparatively unscathed, though I have clear memories of my late father's anger and sense of disappointment as the Watergate scandal began to unfold. (He died in December 1972, close to two years before Nixon resigned from office.)
Nor did I set out to write "Frost/Nixon" as a metaphor for the failed imperial presidency and abuses of power of George W. Bush...
Not to minimize the traumas, horrors, and betrayals, but Watergate was a political scandal, not the Siege of Leningrad. I still meet people who loved every minute of it, never missing the Senate hearings and even throwing Watergate parties. So it's not as though if Morgan were 20 years older and had actually experienced the Ordeal, it would be completely beyond his considerable powers to imagine a Nixon character who was halfway human.
Though not gripped by trauma, Morgan is obviously gripped by a fashionably left-wing perspective on U.S. and British politics. Nothing wrong with that, but since it's the same perspective most of RN's critics had during Vietnam and Watergate, his youth doesn't seem to add much value, notwithstanding his play's merits. As for an accurate rendition of the era's real trauma, the war President Nixon inherited and ended, that's yet to come.
Kimberly Cribbs, who witnessed the stampede, said shoppers were acting like "savages."Police are studying security tapes, trying to identify people who trampled Jdimytai Damour, 34, to death. Others were injured trying to help him.
"When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling `I've been on line since yesterday morning,'" she said. "They kept shopping."
Friday, November 28, 2008
It's the day we go forth to purchase gifts to offer to those we love -- in the name of Christ, if we're faithful people. It's not supposed to be so dangerous. The scene above is from Secaucus, New Jersey. Our faces are not exactly transfixed with joy.
We are spending more money than we have ever spent before and it does not work. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started and an enormous debt to boot.
This might as well be me. Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan. A year ago I wasn't blogging, and my life was full. On this most glorious of unallocated days, I tried to figure out where the time is coming from. Neglect of of either vocation? Inconceivable. Of loved ones? Starting to worry about that. Less guitar playing? Unfortunately, although the loved ones reckon it as a blessing. Less reading? More. Fewer movies and reprises of "The West Wing"? Undoubtedly. Less exercise? Oh oh.
Unplugging, I headed out for the traditional three miles around the neighborhood. I sometimes like to listen to music when I walk, plus I took something to read while getting a cup of coffee. Since everyone had gone shopping, I wanted them to be able to reach me. And so I prepared to pocket one device containing the equivalent of 1,000 CDs, another that has the book I'm reading (The Professor and the Madman) plus 20 more and about 45 newspapers and magazines, and a handheld with ten times the computing power of Apollo 11 and the capacity to reach every telephone and web site on earth. This was nuts. I left the BlackBerry home. Ironic, as I think about it.
Besides, the title of Sullivan's post, "Why Palin Failed," begs the question: How? She didn't cost the Republicans the election; the economy did. She had about the same negligible effect as most VP candidates. She certainly failed to be the person Sullivan and others might have wanted her to be. But she's still going to be a factor in '12 and perhaps '16. I'm content to watch and see what she does, to see whether she takes the Reagan or the Nixon way. Whatever happens, it won't be dull.
In March, teenage seminarians in Jerusalem were the victims of an attack that seemed calculated to destroy any progress being made by Israelis and the Palestinian Authority.
Similarly, the week's attacks in Mumbai (in which innocent Jews also died) seemed calculated to drive a new wedge between India and Pakistan, who had come to the brink of nuclear war after terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament in December 2001. India had blamed elements of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. Both sides finally backed down. Now prodded by the U.S., which wants him to worry about al-Qaeda instead of India, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has been making determined overtures, mindful of his country's desperate economic straits as well. Reports the New York Times:
A businessman at heart, Mr. Zardari understands the benefit of strong trade between India and Pakistan. Now on life support from the International Monetary Fund, Pakistan would profit immensely from the normalization of relations.But some people don't want normalization. They want their enemies humiliated and killed and their every ambition for revenge and power realized. When India quickly implicated Pakistan in the Mumbai attacks, the cycle seemed bound to recommence.
The on-line Times (its site is mucked up, so I can't link) now reports that Pakistan's ISS chief is heading to India to assist in the investigation, an extraordinary, encouraging move. Sometimes extremists make the middle way impossible. But sometimes they fail, and the world gets a little better.
Deepest condolences to Yorba Linda neighbors the North County Chabad Center.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
The Wall Street Journal interviews Frank Langella, whom Roger Elbert favors as winner of the Academy Award for best actor for "Frost/Nixon":
In July 2006, while preparing for the Broadway run of Peter Morgan's play, the actor visited the Nixon Library, talking to those who had known the President and spending over an hour studying the materials he had used to prepare for the Frost interviews in 1977. (That's me, showing him the binders.) He cheerfully owned the fashionably anti-Nixon, anti-Vietnam views he'd held in the 1970s. But unlike Sir Anthony Hopkins, who made a half-hearted PR visit to Yorba Linda before appearing in Oliver Stone's bizarre fantasy "Nixon," Langella said he was aiming for a fleshed-out, empathetic performance.
I liked Richard Nixon and I liked playing him. I don't think he'll ever be gone from me, because something about the man is just very powerful. His pain, and the obviousness of his pain, stays with you. It's not a sentiment that's new to any of us -- you could see it on him at all times, his discomfort in public -- but I discovered he could be equally funny and charming. He just wasn't a relaxed man, and was forever churning away, trying to achieve greatness.
Director Ron Howard chose the Library's White House East Room to film Langella's performance as RN saying goodbye to his colleagues on August 9, 1974. It was a painful moment for the country as well as the President and his family. My colleagues Kathy O'Connor, Sandy Quinn, and I watched Howard and him film three takes. His performance was dignified and powerful. Afterwards, he left the set and walked toward us, still in character, and gave us a hug. We gulped and called him "Mr. President."
While my elder daughter, her nice friend from high school, my "follower," and I await further readers, I thought I'd note the exchange of comments on the New Nixon version of this post.
What's most striking about Obama's approach to foreign policy is that he is less an idealist than a realist who would advance American interests by diplomacy, by working to improve the country's image abroad, and by using military force prudently and cautiously.
This sounds a lot like the foreign policy of George H.W. Bush, and it makes perfect sense that Obama has had conversations with the senior Bush's closest foreign policy adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Obama has drawn counsel from many in Scowcroft's circle, and [Defense chief Robert] Gates himself was deputy national security adviser under Scowcroft.
I can see many from the window of my hotel room, down there on the shore watching the startlingly noisy, don’t-book-a-room-next-door, annual Key West World Championship Power Boat race. Arse fat, neck fat, hip fat, thigh fat. There’s also the proper, terrifying Star Wars villain fat: arms unable to descend below an obtuse isosceles triangle sort of thing, but that’s actually fairly rare. I can only see two of them, rippling slightly as the boats roar past. Most common is what you’d have to call skinny fat: slender arms, slender legs, but with a bulge in the front of their polo-shirt, like they’ve been out shoplifting soft furnishings. My doctor tells me I’m a touch overweight, but I could be a whole different species.
A former UPI foreign correspondent who's married to NBC's Jamie Gangel, Silva, in his author's notes, reminds us that while journalism appears to be dying in the U.S., elsewhere it's the journalists:
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 47 reporters, editors, cameramen, and photographers have been killed in Russia since 1992, making it the third-deadliest country in the world in which to practice the craft of journalism, after Iraq and Algeria. Fourteen of those deaths occurred during the rule of Russian president [now PM] Vladimir Putin, who undertook a systematic crack-down on press freedom and political dissent after coming to power in 1999. Virtually all the murders were contract killings, and few have been solved or prosecuted.Silva also thanks Jean Becker, "amazing" chief of staff to former President and Barbara Bush (Mrs. Bush was transferred out of ICU today after her ulcer surgery, thanks be to God). Hear hear! Jean has also extended many kindnesses to the Nixon family and Foundation over the years.
German scholarship helped create Biblical criticism in the nineteenth century. Criticism placed the Gospels, particularly, in historical context. It tries to determine what portions of the Gospels were close to the events and likely accurate, and which were later interpolations and more likely expressed the hopes of their eras. Now a German scholar, a convert to Islam, has turned historical criticism on to the Muslim texts. The uproar has barely begun; but without such criticism, the modernization and moderation of Islam cannot get underway.
Kathy and I were at the Honda Center in Anaheim when Tom Morello joined him for this version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad." This was before Lehman Bros. caved, incidentally. Sounds a little different now -- as does the Dave Alvin performance of the New Deal-era "Jubilee Train" I'm listening to as I type.
From Lambeth Palace in London:
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has today written to the High Commissioner of India, Mr Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, expressing his shock and outrage at the appalling atrocities in Mumbai and offering on behalf of the whole Anglican Communion prayers for those who have lost loved ones, for the injured and for all those caring for them or dealing with the ongoing siege. "People everywhere", he said, "stand in solidarity with the innocent and in condemnation of those who would destroy innocent lives out of evil and misguided motives".
Maybe not, but what Obama’s [Cabinet and personnel] choices indicate is that his temperament is fundamentally a conservative one—and it’s the reason, after all, that he got elected in the first place. Obama’s statements and choices suggest sobriety rather than risk-taking. Obama, in other words, is the anti-Bush not only in tone, but also in substance. Where Bush was a radical, Obama could be the most conservative president America has had in decades. This, in brief, could be the real change that Obama represents.
I can no more stop loving my church than I can stop laughing with drag queens. I can no more abandon my political conservatism than I can my cultural liberalism. I can no more disown my own Catholic family than I can my dead gay friends. And the struggle of these years has been the insistence that all of this is true and none of it should be denied. Because we are human before we are gay; and humans are complicated, fascinating, vulnerable creatures. We are all virtually normal. The goal of the movement Milk helped propel is not to allow everyone the freedom to be gay so much as it is to allow everyone the freedom to be themselves.
The first black bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, John Walker, presided there. Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first female presiding bishop in the Episcopal Church, was inducted there. And Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire was the first openly gay bishop in Christendom.
"We are a place that welcomes people of all faiths and no faith," says [Cathedral Dean the Very Rev. Sam] Lloyd, echoing Barack Obama's words of two years ago. "Whatever we once were," Obama said then, "we're no longer just a Christian nation. At least not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation and a Buddhist nation and a Hindu nation and a nation of nonbelievers."
Indian officials have so far resisted suggestions that Indian Muslims are being radicalised and joining a global jihad. Many refer approvingly to the observation of George Bush that Muslims from India have not in general turned up to fight the infidels on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. But security analysts have meanwhile despaired at the unpreparedness of India’s security agencies to counter a domestic Islamist threat. Whether or not al-Qaeda was behind the latest attack, that happy complacency must now have ended.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Can Barack Obama succeed in laying Richard Nixon’s ghost to rest? As Obama pledges bipartisanship and reaches across the aisle to John McCain, many of us can’t help but hope that we’ve seen the end of the politics of denigration.
Of course you have!
If Oscar buzz is evidenced by every little thing about a movie getting ink before it’s even released to the public, then “Frost/Nixon” is a shoe-in. Booth Moore:
In “Frost/Nixon,” [Michael] Sheen plays dandy British talk show host [David] Frost with all the wide ties, and even wider collars to match. His hair is something of a character itself– coiffed into a perfect helmet and worn with deep sideburns and arched eyebrows — a parody of all that TV journalism has become since that moment. Frost, the forerunner of the modern day metrosexual, is too well-dressed in Nixon’s opinion, his horse bit Italian loafers too effeminate. “I think a man should wear shoes with laces,” one of Nixon’s trusty aides says.
The shoes are a defining point of difference between the two men, between Nixon and a generation he never understood. But in the end, it’s those shoes that bring the characters together in what might be the most poignant moment in the film.
It’s fun to relive Los Angeles in the 1970s for a couple of hours, from the glamour of Frost’s Beverly Hilton Hotel suite, to the inside of the hotter-than-hot Ma Maison restaurant, with Frost’s gal Caroline Cushing dressed by costume designer Daniel Orlandi in a liquid jersey a la Halston.
But what was really a hoot was the first class cabin of the plane Frost took across the Atlantic, with its silver tea service and cocktail bar. Can you imagine? Let’s chew on that as we head out of town on the busiest travel day of the year.
Barry Kosmin, one of the nation's top researchers on the demographics of faith, argues in a book he co-authored, Religion in a Free Market, that competition among religion groups keeps interest in God high in the USA, even as denominational identity is fading.
Now, you can see that "market" in action: The final formal break-off of a small but significant group of U.S. and Canadian parishes and dioceses from their national denominations and, quite possibly, from the Anglican Communion, the world's third largest Christian denomination, as well.
The Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, has been riven by dissent for years over how to read the Bible and whether homosexuals can serve as bishops.Not to judge Kosmin's book by its title, but Jesus demonstrated that the marketplace and gospel don't mix by cleansing one in the name of the other, his only reported direct use of violence. Post-1960s American Christians do tend to be church-shoppers, tempting pastors and congregations to focus on customer service and nose-counting. We keep God popular by making him seem palatable and relatively undemanding. But the gospel is about giving, not consuming. Christians are supposed to be more interested in the fast than what tastes good. We can't follow the money or the attendance tallies to truth and salvation. As Jesus also showed, it's possible for the ten thousand to be wrong and the one right.
As for Grossman's summary of the Episcopal Church's problems -- the ordination of a partnered gay bishop and differences of opinion about how to read the Bible -- that's about right. In the end, the second problem may be far worse than the first.
By the time we're through, five or ten percent of Episcopalians will probably have left because of the church's purported permissiveness. Which of the remnants, the larger or the smaller, is righteous? The question is complex and emotional. It's about individual dignity as well as the best way to raise children. But the church is learning along with civil society about the permanence of sexual orientation. In 50 years, it could be as unthinkable to deny ordination or a blessing on the basis of homosexuality as ethnicity or eye color.
While progressives may be on the right side of the arc of history when it comes to gays and lesbians, they are whistling past the empty tomb when it comes to Grossman's second issue -- how Christians read the Bible. Tens of millions claim to do so literally, especially many U.S. evangelicals and virtually all those who are threatening to rip the Anglican Communion apart. In a way, it's hard to blame them. As Episcopal theologian Phyllis Tickle has pointed out, Anglican missionaries lugged crates of Bibles to Africa in the 19th century and proclaimed that its every dit and twiddle was the basis of salvation, including passages such as Romans 1:27 which prohibit homosexual relations. It seems almost churlish to complain when some of their bishops take umbrage now that there their newly enlightened U.S. and Canadian colleagues insist it's not a sin after all, in spite of God's authoritative word.
When it comes to Bible rules, some of which are more practical in modern life than others, it's all about authority. Roman Catholics believe God empowered the pope to explain and elaborate Bible rules, making church tradition tantamount to God's own proclamations. Since the Reformation, Protestants have been struggling to find an alternative. What many have fixed on is the unquestioned authority of the written word itself, the doctrine of sola scriptura.
The chasm between these Christians and those who read the Bible using various modern tools such as historical, textual, and canonical criticism is at least as wide as the divide over sexual orientation. Take this passage from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (14: 34-35, NRSV), for instance:
Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home.While some churches may follow this proscription, no women I know attend them. Our critical tools give us permission to ask these questions: How did the role of women in the first century Roman world affect Paul's thinking? Could he have been worried that noisy women would put both them and the young Christian movement in danger? Did Paul even write the passage, or did a scribe or follower add it later to reinforce male authority in the church in spite of Jesus's egalitarianism?
Many worshiping in mainline denominations have no trouble asking these questions and yet still honoring the sacredness of the Bible. Conservative evangelicals also make some allowances as well, permitting women to pipe up occasionally but tending not to call them as preachers or pastors -- and whatever they might decide about women, ix-nay on the a-gays.
Authority in the Episcopal Church is rooted in 18th century representative democracy, right down to the bicameral legislature (with houses of bishops and deputies). Believing that the Holy Spirit is present when faithful people gather in community, TEC votes on how to interpret the Bible, when to ordain women and gays, and whether to have fish or steak for dinner. Though Anglicans have a formula for weighing three factors -- scripture, tradition, and reason -- our polity tends to give more weight to reason than the originator of the famous three-legged stool, Richard Hooker, may have intended. After all, smart, well-intentioned people can talk themselves into anything. As for tradition, even that changes as faith communities and denominations change with the times. For some, only Scripture is immutable.
The irony is that many biblical literalists don't realize that in their church practice they're participating in modern scriptural interpretation. Every woman at Saddleback who speaks her mind in Bible study instead of asking her husband to teach her at home is violating St. Paul's literal rule, because some authority in her church has correctly decided that Christ's church can't discriminate so harshly against women in our egalitarian times. But if they set aside Corinthians for the sake of women but not Romans for the sake of gay and lesbian people, then they are being selectively modern. They are choosing when to stick to a literal reading depending on a human predisposition about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, rooted either in the traditions of the human church or their own intestines.
To a greater or lesser extent, almost every Christian observes some Bible rules and exempts himself from others. Without some central authority to set and enforce rules for Bible living, individual Christians are free to provide their own. The danger is that we will arrive at self-justifying, self-idolatrous interpretations, contrary to the thrust of Christ's radically other-focused gospel. At the root of the TEC schism is the individualistic American tendency for any community to shrink until only the like-minded remain, with the church of one (probably not including Jesus) being the ultimate solution.
For their part, some schismatics rightly fear that progressives are also carving up the Bible, keeping Jesus's humane teachings and the best stuff in the prophets about peace and justice while excluding the bits about righteous living as well as anything smacking of the magical such as miracles and healings. Also up for grabs -- focal point, perhaps, for the coming schism of schisms -- is what the Bible discloses about Christ's bodily resurrection. Whether or not they disclose it at Easter services, many modern churchpeople are squishy about whether Christ's body was literally reanimated. For decades there has been a lot of talk about how he just seemed to be alive again because his memory and teachings were so powerful.
I can't help but think that this is the real deal breaker for the Church, with debates about women, which prayers to use, and the rights of gay and lesbian people being the sideshows. The risen Lord is the hope of the world, not the imperfectly transcribed accounts of his teachings or the wisdom and piety of the human beings in his church. Perhaps Christians need a new fundamentalism with just two pillars: Insistence on the absolute dignity and equality before God of all whom he has made as he made them, and faith that he created the world with a flash of light and saved it with another.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
For author Richard Rodriguez, no one is talking about the real issues behind Proposition 8.
While conservative churches are busy trying to whip up another round of culture wars over same-sex marriage, Rodriguez says the real reason for their panic lies elsewhere: the breakdown of the traditional heterosexual family and the shifting role of women in society and the church itself. As the American family fractures and the majority of women choose to live without men, churches are losing their grip on power and scapegoating gays and lesbians for their failures.
According to the Chinese media, PE Obama is definitely the new Nixon. This unsigned commentary was published by the official Xinhua New Agency, which means it's either what the government thinks or what the government wants the world to think the government thinks:
I believe that Obama's government will very likely pursue a strategic retraction, meaning the U.S. will very likely enter a period of strategic adjustment.
The last time the U.S. underwent a strategic retraction was in the early 1970s. The starting signals came in then President Richard Nixon's address to the nation on the war in Vietnam on Nov 3, 1969 and the annual foreign affairs report his administration submitted to Congress in Feb 1970.
Nixon said back then the U.S. would still honor its obligations spelled out in the treaties it had signed with its allies, but it was impossible for the U.S. to defend all "free countries" in the world and those under security threats should rely on themselves more than on any other nation, because the U.S. would not plunge into another protracted conflict like the Vietnam War ever again.
That is the so-called Nixon Doctrine, of which the gist is to pursue a strategic retraction by reducing the defense obligations the U.S. had to fulfill around the world. Between then and the early 1980s the country basically remained in strategic retraction, mostly because the U.S. was sinking deeper in the swamp of Vietnam War with the society bitterly split.
That is my nativity set that was uncovered in our rubble by my 18-year old-son two days after our home burned to the ground. It was the only thing that remained and had a lot of sentimental value attached to it as it was a gift from my late mother.
It was stored on the second story in the attic and the roof fell on it yet many of the pieces are perfectly in tact without a scratch on them.
Thoughts on if it has a meaning behind it?
I'd say that's a big yes.
A friend asked what I meant suggesting that Gov. Palin could be the new Nixon instead of the new Reagan. Here are the two scenarios:
New Reagan: Several weeks before the election, GOP insider Ed Rollins said, somewhat chillingly, that some didn't think Sen. McCain was the right candidate to rebuild the party, an echo of those who felt the same about President Ford in 1976. During 1977-80, Jimmy Carter made such a muck of the economy and foreign policy that a Republican victory was almost inevitable. Having challenged and weakened Ford in the '76 primaries, Ronald Reagan earned the '80 nomination, which was tantamount to winning the election.
Palin and her advisers can't help but have grasped the possibility that Obama will falter or that the sheer magnitude of our economic and international challenges will overwhelm him. Every leading Republican has as well. The internecine sniping at Palin has nothing to do with '08 postmortems and everything to do with '12 prepositioning.
The fallacy is that the party needs a new Reagan -- a candidate with special appeal to social conservatives -- to beat the new Carter. The moderate, pro-choice John Connally or George H. W. Bush would almost certainly have beaten Carter had one of them been nominated. For '12, the GOP doesn't need a far-right champion. It needs an agonized reappraisal of what makes it necessary and viable. Delaying that work in order to coalesce around the present Palin would be a disastrous mistake, as would her hurling herself against an Obama juggernaut in '12 unless she had a reasonable chance of success. From the moment Lehman Bros. failed in mid-September, she and McCain became sacrificial lambs. One self-sacrifice per career is sufficient.
New Nixon: RN would begin with the assumption that Obama will probably not fail. An incumbent is likely to be reelected, and Obama will probably not make Carter's mistakes. Because circumstances may nonetheless hobble him, however, Mr. Nixon would advise Palin to keep her '12 options open, but he'd urge her to fix her attention on '16.
As for the present Palin, he would have enormous respect for the potential she embodies. She has an astonishing reservoir of political capital. But he would have some significant concerns. And so he would almost certainly write her a "Dear Governor Palin" letter beginning, "I am sure you are receiving a great deal of free advice from well-meaning fans and self-appointed advisers around the country. While you are of course under no obligation to give it any consideration whatsoever, I have taken the liberty of enclosing a memorandum containing just a few..." In such circumstances, his insights were usually based in the reliability of his own experience. He would make points such as this:
Take some time off the national stage. The temptation will be to accept too many of the invitations that are flowing in and to go out and challenge her critics. We've probably seen too much of her already just this week. Better to be a little scarce and mysterious. As RN liked to say, it never hurts to leave them wanting more.
Get back to work. Her critics say she's a lightweight fashion plate. Confound them by being an effective governor (or senator).
See the world and meet leaders. RN would consider this crucial -- first, because she's justifiably seen as weak in foreign policy, and second, because it would help her prepare to be in power.
Do favors. Some of RN's most important political work was done in 1964, when he campaigned loyally for the hopeless Goldwater candidacy, and in the midterm elections of 1966, doing favors that were repaid in 1968. In 2012, assuming she doesn't run, Palin should be the most loyal and committed advocate of whomever does. Purely in terms of her own political interests, the worst than could happen is that he would win and she'd have her pick of jobs.
Don't let your enemies define you. Palin provoked panic among abortion rights advocates. The weekend after she was named to the ticket, Andrew Sullivan republished a lie about her son Trig's parentage on his Atlantic Monthly-owned web site that obviously still rankles. Yet Palin would close herself off from growth as a leader by taking it personally. If some people despise her because of her pro-life views, what might she learn from their passion? Some women experience the possibility of restrictions on abortion as an existential challenge. She is comfortable seeing the issue almost solely in terms of the rights of the unborn. What about the rights of the half of the population that wasn't permitted to vote until 1920? Hillary Clinton did herself a tremendous favor three years ago with a speech in which she spoke respectfully of those who hate abortion. Palin should consider making an analogous gesture, both on the abortion and the gay rights fronts.
Read and think. At least from afar, Palin doesn't seem curious or self-critical. Confidence is good in a leader; smugness is not. Mr. Nixon read hungrily all his life and spent long hours in Socratic dialogs with experts, advisers, and aides. While his core principles didn't waiver, his approach to great issues changed with the times. The anti-communist of the 1940s became the internationalist of the 1950s, the course-changing peacemaker of the 1960s and '70s, and the elder statesman of the '80s, respected by all his Democratic and Republican successors in spite of the circumstances of his administration's end.
As Palin matures as a potential national leader, her views will, one hopes, become more moderate and nuanced. Her New Reagan advisers will caution her against permitting this to happen. Lost in the fantasy that Reagan's conservative bona fides (rather than the "R" after his name) won him the '80 election, they'll urge her not to tamper with the time-tested Palin brand. But if she thinks she's fully formed and ready to be President, she'll never make it. She'll fade away prematurely or, at best, squander her potential on a quixotic '12 bid that would probably relegate her to oblivion and her party to another generation in the wilderness. If she uses the next eight years wisely, focused more on substance than on politics, she could truly be the new Nixon, and a winner.
As long as I'm reprising my interests for the sake of my reader (hi, Valerie!), I'll mention my quasitheological faith that the Amazon Kindle will rescue text in general and newspapers in particular. Here's a New Nixon post from March; and here are all my posts on Kindling and the dying newpaper industry. Since I wrote this, the price has come down about $50; there are now roughly 200,000 books available; and the newspaper whose executives I urged to go Kindle have done so (though not, I trust, because of anything I said).
It is hard to find a truly successful secretary of state who served a president weak in international affairs. Certainly in the modern era, two generally regarded as successful — Henry Kissinger and James Baker — served tough, experienced leaders.
Whatever you think of Richard Nixon or George H.W. Bush, both were skilled in foreign policy. Their pairings were built on loyalty and consensus, at least in public.
It's true these matches were also based on close personal relationships not apparent between Obama and Clinton. But then again, the closeness between current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush did not improve a State Department legacy that is likely to be rated by historians as below average.
The bottom line is that the Republican Party needs to forget Sarah Palin and find a Richard Nixon-type candidate in 2012. Richard Nixon was a pragmatic conservative and was able to win two national elections when the electoral map was in a state of flux due to an increase of new minority voters, African-Americans. Richard Nixon used his presidency to add teeth to Affirmative Action policies and to begin Minority and Women Business initiatives in the federal government. Nixon made inroads to this new voting block while keeping his conservative principles of small business growth and development.
Can we leave behind the non-policy ideologue that is embodied by Sarah Palin? Or are we destined to repeat this failure of leadership in the 2012 election cycle? Finding this Nixon-esque balance is not only possible and achievable, with the changing demographics of the electoral map, this balance will be necessary to win back the Congress and the White House.
In [an] indication that the liberals are winning the Anglican wars, The Episcopal Church of the US, which was suspended at a previous meeting, is expected to be welcomed back into the fold after sticking by its pledge not to consecrate any more gay bishops.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Morgan says that, for a writer, it's liberating to see historical characters in a different light. "It had become almost a sin to think of Nixon as anything less than a villain," he [said] Friday. "And strangely, that aroused my indignation. I thought it was time to move on from seeing Nixon as the boogeyman of American politics. He's not the skulking Herblock cartoon version of the man, with the ski-jump nose and perspiration and five o'clock shadow. I admit to having great sympathy for him."
Morgan proposes that the two pivotal characters of "Frost/Nixon" were actually miscast in real life. "It was Frost who had the sunny personality of a politician and Nixon who would've been a truly great investigative journalist--a Mike Wallace type," he says. "That was his persona, rigorous and analytical, like a journalist...."
And "The American Spectator," not pleased with Obama's likely Treasury pick, Timothy Geithner, notes his links with the "pragmatic" Dr. Kissinger.
It's beginning to look a lot like Nixon.
Hillary will be a loose cannon as Secretary of State, vindicating her own agenda rather than that of the president and burnishing her own image at every turn. Not since Cordell Hull in the 30s have we had a Secretary so interested in running for president. Not since William Jennings Bryan in the 1910s have we had a defeated nominee named as Secretary. Obama will not be able to control Hillary nor will he be able to control his own administration with Emanuel as Chief of Staff. He will find that his appointees will march to the beat of their own drummer - if he is lucky - and Hillary's if he is not.In other words, Morris and McGann believe, Hillary Clinton would be the new Salmon Chase.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Moderate, equivocal Republicanism, unsatisfactory to progressives and Reagan conservatives alike. Via media theology, appalling to Rome and most evangelical Protestants. The third leg of the Episconixonian stool is American roots music, sometimes called alt.-country.
Think "No Depression" and "Paste" (God love 'em both). Think Ryan Adams and other caught-in-the-middle artists. I share a love of the stuff with a far more knowledgeable aficionado, The New Nixon's Frank Gannon.
My musical bit on TNN is a weekly "perfect song." Ear of the behearer, I realize. Ottawa's Kathleen Edwards, a classical violinist-turned-troubadour, first released "In State," about a woman who decides that she doesn't like bad boys after all, in 2005. If that opening progression doesn't get in your head, this isn't the music for you. But I'll bet it is!
As an example of how I'll persistently fail to take a definitive stand on any issue, an item I posted at The New Nixon a couple of weeks ago. If you like, go to TNN and read the critique that a self-described papist posted in response:
On Saturday, over 20,000 demonstrated against California’s Prop. 8. Melissa Etheridge says she’s keeping her $500,000 a year in state taxes now that her second-class citizenship has been affirmed.
Protesters may be hoping to influence the courts that will rule on lawsuits claiming that Prop. 8, which amends the constitution to ban gay marriage, is invalid. President Nixon used to say that judges read the papers and feel the political heat just like ordinary people, so we shall see. (He also predicted we’d have gay marriage by 2000.)
Opponents of gay marriage, including the President-elect, often say that they support civil union and domestic partnership laws instead. This primer shows how these expedients aim for but don’t match the sturdiness of the marriage contract. One can understand the frustration of those who object to society making that contract not impossible for them to get — just considerably more complicated and expensive. What is the point of giving a couple 60%, or 75%, or whatever percentage of a thing but then withholding the last bit on the basis of some immutable principle, especially when we’ve already ceded the principle by establishing civil unions in some states, including California?
The explanation for a paradox is usually in the heart, wrapped in people’s ideals and fears as well their foundational experiences. The mom-dad paradigm, dominant since the beginning of time, is at the root of most people’s definition of family. Pin me to the wall, and I’ll say it’s best for a child to have a mom and dad. The irony is that my father was almost never around, and my mother had to go back to work when I was three weeks old. I might have done better with two attentive moms or two dads. As it was, I went searching for replacement dads, not extra moms (though some men do that when they choose their wives). I needed a father in my life — because of my conception of the godhead, because I was male, or for some other reason.
Everyone else has their own set of experiences, beliefs, and sometimes pathologies. On Nov. 4, it added up to 52% of Californians being against same-gender marriage. You can blame it on funding from the Mormons if you like, but my guess is that relatively few voters needed help making up their minds. These were votes that came from the gut.
As for mine, I tried to think about being deprived of the right to marry the person I loved because I’d been born gay. Besides, as ex-Nixon speechwriter William Safire wrote several years ago, the gays are bound to do better with marriage than the straights. We may yet get back to the ideal of the traditional family, but in the meantime — and it will be a long time — men and women who beget children, both mindfully and not, will need significant help from nontraditional families to raise them.
In the end, I voted against Prop. 8, especially for the sake of the gay and lesbian people I care about, including mentors and partners in Christian ministry. I did so without being eager for the ban to fail. “Marriage” is a culturally defined term, and the best way a free people has to define their terms is at the ballot box. If the Holy Spirit was moving across the surface of the deep on this issue, I didn’t want my vote to be the one standing in her way. But as I voted, my heart and head were still tugging at one another.
Now that the measure has passed, gay and lesbian people are heartbroken and angry. Comparing their cause to civil rights for African-Americans and Hispanics, they criticize blacks for voting in favor of Prop. 8. It’s a harsh political reality that people’s visceral feelings about homosexuality run deeper than culturally and economically conditioned biases against ethnic groups. Instead of blaming those who voted yes, marriage equity advocates might look for new political and social partners. Those who oppose abortion also feel marginalized and unheard, not only by the majority of voters but the MSM, which at least is giving the anti-Prop. 8 demonstrators a fair hearing. Gay people and the unborn and their advocates — the last second-class citizens — may have the makings of an effective coalition.
As for how marriage is ultimately defined by secular society, my guess is that gay and lesbian people will soon be granted that last 40% or 25% of a durable legal contract. At that point, the debate will shift back to where the really difficult work is being done — the church and other faith communities.
Reformation scholars will tell you that the early Protestants didn’t think the church had any business solemnizing legal contracts between men and women or anyone else. The deed was done on the church steps, after which the couple came inside for the main event — the church’s mediation of God’s blessing, which God had envisioned for the couple at the beginning of all things. The church understands that the two people were meant for each other in the mind of God. In the marriage rites contained in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, the emphasis is not on the marriage itself, which the priest or bishop does as an agent of the state, but on God’s preexisting blessing.
That’s why the divisive debate in the Episcopal Church is over whether same-sex unions should be blessed. That debate won’t be any easier for churches, dioceses, or provinces just because polities decide to give all people access to the same durable legal contract.
For unchurched Californians, overturning Prop. 8, should that happen, will be the end of the drama. For the faithful, more scenes have yet to be played out, and on their stage, legislation, demonstrations, and court cases aren’t as helpful. The church won’t be of one mind on the subject until the preponderance of those in the pews have the epiphany experience of looking across the aisle at Fred and Ed or Alice and Grace (or perhaps across the table at the family Thanksgiving feast) and saying to themselves, “You know, I’m not wild about this whole gay marriage thing, but those two were meant to be together.” For the faithful, meant-to-be is in the mind of God, the source of all blessing.
Respected journalist, cheap shot at Nixon. Par for the course. That's why Nixonians must blog on.
And the Episcopal bit? Isn't the U.S. arm of the worldwide Anglican Communion similarly maligned and misunderstood?
RN and TEC: A match made in...Well, here.
I'll mainly be blogging at The New Nixon for the time being, but I wanted to get a toe in the water in my own little backwater as well.