You could just as easily describe [it] as a huge win for Olympia Snowe. After all, unlike Obama she got her way on START and DADT but also got her way on DREAM and one way to describe the tax cut compromise is really that she got Obama to shift to her position on taxes and got Mitch McConnell to give her cover on her right flank on unemployment insurance and ARRA extensions. But nobody is talking about how Olympia Snowe is the “comeback Senator” who, after 12 months of ineffectual moderation, succeeded in making the world turn on her pivotal status.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
The clinic, called Terem, is well-known in Jerusalem in part because it was started by a physician named David Applebaum, who was killed in the September 9, 2003 terrorist bombing of a cafe in the Germany Colony neighborhood, along with his daughter Naava, who was scheduled to get married the next day. The physician who saw my son at Terem, like many of the clinic's physicians, is an Arab from East Jerusalem. In Terem, and at Hadassah Hospital, and the other hospitals in town, Jews treat Arabs, Arabs treat Jews, and no one thinks twice about it. No one who lives here, I mean. For visitors (even one, like myself, who once lived in Jerusalem), these sorts of commonplace facts of life -- Germans praying in Hebrew, Arab physicians treating Jews in a clinic founded by a terror victim, and on, and on -- can be astonishing.
[F]rom this historical episode, it is clear that repeated doses of foreign policy realism can deaden the conscience. In President Nixon's office, a lack of human sentiment was viewed as proof of mental toughness - an atmosphere that diminished the office itself. Realists are often dismissive of Manichean distinctions between good and evil, light and darkness. But in the world beyond good and evil, some may be lightly consigned to the gas chambers.Gerson's comment is especially appalling in view of an historical reality which he neglects to mention, namely that Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union reached its Cold War apogee as the direct result of Nixon's policies. That means Russia's Jews were safer because of Nixon, and yet Gerson claims to have gotten a whiff of gas. While the taped Nix-Kiss exchange is impossible to defend on its merits, it's nothing but hot air.
Since the tape was opened earlier this month, Kissinger's friends have defended him strenuously. No word yet from Nixon's men -- except, now, Kissinger himself. Knowing him, I'd say his response became inevitable after Gerson used the opportunity of the tapes opening to suggest that the Jackson-Vanik amendment (which tied U.S.-Soviet trade relations to rates of emigration and ended up making it far harder for Jews to get out than it had been under Nixon) somehow helped end the Cold War. In response, Kissinger took to the Washington Post op-ed page on Christmas Eve. He began by apologizing for his loose talk in the White House and then took aim at his Reagan-boosting critic:
Gerson ascribes the collapse of the Soviet Union in part to the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. The amendment played no significant role in what resulted from imperial overstretch, incompetent economic management and the determined resistance of a succession of presidents from both parties, culminating in the Reagan period.
Gerson sneers at detente as if it were a kind of moral abdication. Memories are short. The conversation under discussion occurred on March 1, 1973. The Vietnam War had just ended; prisoners had not yet returned.
An effective global strategy was in place with the opening to China, a broad dialogue with the Soviet Union, and major progress in Egypt and on emigration. It was to preserve that policy that the conversation in the Oval Office took place, and it is in that context that it must be viewed.
Mr. Obama is not a politician who uses circumstances and relationships to cajole. He is not one to say, “Let’s have a couple of drinks and hash this out.” He does not confuse his work friends with his real friends. He jealously guards his time with his wife and daughters and the tight circle of intimates like Eric Whitaker and Martin Nesbitt from Chicago, who are with him [on vacation in Hawaii]. And he is perfectly content to leave his public persona at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and slip, however briefly, into private life.Two issues here, it seems to me. Protecting time with his family and being intentional about vacations make obvious sense. But it's naive and even reckless to act as though political friendships aren't "real" or that policy and political solutions aren't sometimes, indeed often, encountered in the crucible of relationships. There seems to be some evidence here for his critics' contention that Obama still thinks he can persuade people to his point of view by sheer logic, by his impossible-to-resist rightness -- just like the last president who was too good for Washington, the one-term Jimmy Carter.
"There are some upon this earth of yours," returned the Spirit, "who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all out kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us."
Friday, December 24, 2010
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, God with us. Isaiah 7:14 (with a little help from the Septuagint)
O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, and be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Isaiah 40:9
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Isaiah 60:1
Thursday, December 23, 2010
[T]he repeal is an elitist, not populist, victory, one which a future Edward Gibbon will mark down as yet another illustration of an insular political class's delusion and decadence at a time of terrorism. This elite has long wanted to tear down the military and turn it into a laboratory of political correctness, and Obama has smuggled this gift to his friends through the backdoor of a lame-duck session.Whereas Rep. Barney Frank says the gay agenda is no secret:
It is to be protected against violent crimes driven by bigotry, it's to be able to get married, it's to be able to get a job, and it's to be able to fight for our country. For those who are worried about the radical homosexual agenda, let me put them on notice. Two down, two to go.Neumayr's denunciation of the undemocratic, underhanded DADT repeal seems strange in view of a recent poll showing that 77% of the American people favored permitting homosexuals to serve openly in the military. Wouldn't ignoring the people have been the undemocratic and underhanded thing?
This seems too easy, so I must be missing something. Or maybe some conservatives have been stunned into incoherence after having been part of an historic GOP victory last month only to watch Barack Obama win a massive second stimulus bill (which is already helping spur economic recovery), DADT repeal, health care for Sept. 11 first responders, and the ratification of the U.S.-Russian arms control treaty.
Each measure required Republican leadership and votes. While the far right spent the month denouncing those out-of-touch Beltway Republicans, they're the ones who seem to have their finger on the people's pulse. Meanwhile, just as Obama made the mistake of thinking his 2008 victory amounted to a mandate for massive change, many conservative ideologues think the American people now want leaders who think like George Neumayr. But we've been clustered around the great American center all along, right where our polarized politics abandoned us.
Christmas...is a slippery slope. Once you've surrendered, you can't just hang a scrawny fir with costume jewelry. You need one of those trees that takes over the living room; you need ornaments to weigh it down. You need lights, stockings, jingle bells and candy canes. Before I knew it, I was making wreaths, decorating cookies, helping the kids write letters to Santa, leaving out milk and cookies, and a carrot for Rudolph.
What are you? someone asked [daughter] Eliza at her kindergarten holiday party. I'm half Jewish and half Christmas, she said without pause. I had done my job well.
What I hate to break to Jon Stewart, whose takedowns of cable news I very much enjoy, is that compared to the American population at large, not very many people actually watch cable news, let alone the particular shows he ridicules – and, in fact, by focusing his considerable satirical talents on that niche medium, he is arguably contributing to the strange illusion that it is the primary vehicle for public discourse in the United States.
I would like someone in the Netanyahu government to please explain the plan here. It would make things so much easier to understand if we just knew the plan. Is the plan to continue settling Judea and Samaria so that there is no chance whatsoever of creating a Palestinian state? And if this is the plan, then what happens to those Palestinians who are being denied a state? Will they be absorbed into democratic Israel, thus bringing about an end to the idea that there should be a single small country on earth where Jews can be a majority? Or are they going to be denied democratic rights, in which case, well, Israel as we know it will cease to exist. Or is there some other plan? Or -- maybe -- there is no plan. Maybe these things just happen.
Hat tip to the good people at PASTE
Hat tip to Tom Tierney
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
[Erica] Brown seems to poke people with concepts that sit uncomfortably with the modern mind-set — submission and sin. She writes about disorienting situations: vengeance, scandal, group shame. During our coffee, she criticized the way some observers bury moral teaching under legal casuistry and the way some moderns try to explain away the unfashionable things the Torah clearly says.
She pushes the highly successful. No, serving the poor for a few days a year isn’t enough. Yes, it is necessary to expose a friend’s adultery because his marriage is more important than your friendship.
What we are dealing with here is the paltry harvest of captive minds. Such minds resort to conspiracy theory because it is the ultimate refuge of the powerless. If you cannot change your own life, it must be that some greater force controls the world.
With all due respect to my colleague and friend Sarah Palin, I think she's misunderstood what Michelle Obama is trying to do....Michelle Obama's not trying to tell people what to eat or not trying to force the government's desires on people. She's stating the obvious, that we do have an obesity problem in this country.
Richard Nixon was a Quaker who had African-Americans home to dinner as a child, who famously befriended them all his life, who was a civil-rights advocate long before the voting arithmetic of it achieved the grace of conversion for the Kennedys. Nixon fought hard as vice president, against Eisenhower and Speaker Sam Rayburn, for aid to the Hungarian refugees in 1956. He resented that the great majority of American Jews voted against him, but his ethnic slurs, on Jews and others, were not as severe as those of Harry Truman (who was instrumental in founding the State of Israel) or other presidents speaking about non-WASP groups. Richard Nixon saved Israel by virtually giving it a new air force in the midst of the Yom Kippur War, and went to a state of war alert with the Soviet Union to do it, during the greatest crisis of his political career.
Sarah Palin...chirped that the treaty makes "no strategic sense." How would she know?
For one thing, Naftali (shown here giving Richard Nixon's last chief of staff, Kathy O'Connor, a tour of the library's breathtaking "Treasures from the Vault" exhibition) had done state-of-the-art work with secret Kennedy and Johnson tapes while at the University of Virginia's Miller Center. Tapes would be something of which the Nixon library would have an abundance.
Weinstein said that the same thought had occurred to him and gave Naftali the director's job. Within months, I'd essentially given him a less enviable one: Watergate expert-in-chief.
As part of our negotiations with NARA, the Nixon foundation had agreed to redo our Watergate gallery. In the spring of 2006, with Naftali on board, I told Weinstein's deputy, Sharon Fawcett, that it would make more sense for NARA to design the new exhibit itself. My view was and remains that while Nixon's reputation as a peacemaker and domestic policy pragmatist will outweigh the burden of Watergate, the scandal's story has to be fully told and understood before any balanced assessment of his vast legacy is possible.
And who better to do it than the government's new historian-director? Fawcett quickly and enthusiastically agreed, and in May 2006 I handed our work product over to Tim. After conducting extensive interviews with key Watergate players -- one of whom, Dwight Chapin (right), makes an especially startling claim about Nixon's personal involvement in 1972 campaign dirty tricks -- Naftali had the exhibit ready to install this year, only to come under attack from White House friends of Chapin who now control Nixon's foundation.
Former NARA tapes expert Maarja Krusten reviews the matter here and poses an apt if direct question:
By agreeing that the federal government would put up a replacement exhibit after it established a NARA administered library at Yorba Linda in 2007, the Foundation made a commitment to the National Archives. What is unclear is the extent to which it considered that NARA operates under a statute that requires it to reveal “the full truth” about “governmental abuses of power."Well, I certainly did -- and remember, we passed the torch of curatorial responsibility from the private to the federal Nixon library in 2006. Again, we trusted that Nixon's reputation would withstand even the deluge of Watergate. NARA's statutory responsibility notwithstanding, those who really care about his legacy don't help matters by trying to keep their finger in the dike. But, of course, there are other reputations at stake besides Nixon's.
In March 2009 in Antwerp's Central Station, a promotional stunt for a Belgian TV show. Not unlike the Random Acts of Culture we've been seeing in the U.S. It's gotten over 23 million hits. I'm thinking about why these things make us so happy. There may be a Christmas Eve sermon in it!
Hat tip to Tom Tierney
Just several weeks before this conversation, Mr. Kissinger and Nixon agreed to provide Israel with 100 advanced aircraft and to remove Israeli issues from the State Department to the White House, something strongly sought by Golda Meir, who was then prime minister.
Earlier, in 1969, when only approximately 700 Jews were allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union, Mr. Kissinger, then the national security adviser, broached the issue with the Soviet ambassador, Anatoly F. Dobrynin. As a result of this conversation, among others, the Soviets allowed the number of émigrés to increase to almost 40,000 by 1972.
Mr. Kissinger consistently played a constructive role vis-à-vis Israel both as national security adviser and secretary of state, especially when the United States extended dramatic assistance to Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israel’s very existence was at stake.
Over the decades, many of us have heard Mr. Kissinger speak out forcefully on behalf of the security and independence of Israel, and never have we heard him speak in a disparaging way about the Jewish community.
The critics of Mr. Kissinger should remember the context of his entire life and ask whether that judgment is fair. We think the answer is obvious.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain. Isaiah 40:1-4
The larger question is how a public agency ends up doing the bidding of former presidents and private presidential foundations when it comes to handling records and running museums. Stay tuned!
The United States succeeded on Tuesday in getting the United Nations to restore a reference to killings due to sexual orientation that had been deleted from a resolution condemning unjustified executions.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Nixon always denied being directly involved in setting up the dirty tricks. In 1973-74, congressional and federal investigators tried and failed to find evidence to the contrary.
Chapin made his news-making accusation in an interview with Tim Naftali, director of the Nixon library. Go here and listen to Chapin talk about being buzzed into Nixon's office to get the fateful order, deciding to hire his USC classmate Donald Segretti to run the unit, and lining up Nixon's personal attorney, Herb Kalmbach, to pay for it.
The three went to jail as a result of the Watergate scandal. In judging Chapin's late hit, remember that he was convicted in federal court of lying under oath.
The interview appears among the background materials for the Nixon library's upcoming Watergate exhibit, which was attacked by Chapin's White House friends last summer. It will be interesting to see if the interview will be aired by C-SPAN along with Naftali's other revealing chats with Nixon's men.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Ironic that while Nixon’s interest while alive may have been to delay the opening of tapes, now that he’s dead, it would be better to get them out ASAP so balanced assessments might begin. Further irony: Nixon legal pressure, political pressure, or a combination of both delayed tape openings from 1987 until [Stanley] Kutler’s lawsuit in, what, 1992? With no apparent external pressure whatsoever, NARA will have taken from 1996 (when the Kutler suit was settled) until 2012 (est.) to open the entire collection of non-Watergate tapes.
During a two-hour conversation [in 1982], [Nixon] said a confrontation was coming -- probably economic rather than military -- and that "yellow" (his word) Asians were simply genetically superior to Caucasians. The job of a Western leader, he continued, was to hold off that confrontation for as long as possible.
[A] comprehensive review by the Pentagon...found a low risk to military effectiveness despite greater concerns among some combat units and the Marine Corps.In other words, among those doing the preponderance of the fighting, bleeding, and dying. I suppose we can put any opposition down to homophobia. In this case, tempting as that may be to those who are tired of others making them second-class citizens, name-calling probably isn't helpful. Instead, those soldiers and Marines -- also courageous, also volunteers -- are entitled to have their views taken into account as the Pentagon begins the process of putting the new policy into effect. From what I've seen of the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, he'll do his due diligence, and things will work out fine.
If the main problem is that some straight soldiers don't like openly gay ones, they'll just have to get over that, as I'm sure some had to get over not wanting to serve alongside African-Americans when President Truman integrated the military. As this analysis notes, grownups have to work with people they don't like all the time. I think the military phrase is "suck it up." Besides, once people get to know one another as people instead of categories, prejudice doesn't have a chance.
Here's the part I wonder about. Say I'm 19 and my girlfriend and I enlist. Say someone's waved a magic pace stick and decided that women can serve on the front lines. Would she and I end up in the same company or battalion? I'd have to think not, for the sake of ensuring that our priorities would be correct in a combat situation. Even stateside, would they want us in the same barracks? Another bad idea, for obvious reasons. Same thing if we met and fell in love once we were serving. Take this hypothetical dilemma involving openly straight people, think about openly gay men who really will be allowed to serve side-by-side in combat, and you see one of the issues that I imagine the Pentagon has been chewing on.
They'll solve it as they solve all problems: By writing a bunch of rules. The men and women will follow them most of the time. In the end, our military will be stronger, because its will better represent the nearly-miraculous evolving-toward-perfection American ideal for which it fights. God bless them all when so many are so far from those they love during this season of joy and peace.
That being said, during thousands of hours of conversations with me over a 15-year association, he rarely if ever talked this way. Even as a former president, he devoted most of his time and energy to substance -- articles, books, and speeches, as well as his voracious consumption of and commentary about political and policy news.
Having spent plenty of time with the Nixon tapes, my sense is that their 4,000 hours embody a comparable disproportion between substance and triviality. But today's snarling editorial in the New York Times goes out of its way not to take a balanced view. Again, anger about racism and anti-Semitism is understandable. But I'm sure the Times also realizes that Nixon was a serious person of considerable accomplishment whose legacy of foreign policy innovation and domestic pragmatism can still teach us a lot in our era of terrorist threats from abroad and ideological warfare at home.
But frankly, I really shouldn't be picking on the Times, which has been left a clear field. With the exception of the measured insider's perspective at Maarja Krusten's new NixoNARA, it's astonishing how few people have piped up for 37 since the new tapes were opened. Pleased finally to find some relatively friendly commentary about Nixon on another, unfamiliar blog the other day, I went to the home page and realized it was operated by white nationalists. The Nixon White House aides who have devoted so much effort to trying to block the Nixon library Watergate exhibit in which some of them play starring roles appear to have gone home for Christmas now that the tapes beg for friends and associates to stand up and say, "That's not the totality of the man I knew."
One Nixon family member who was especially prone to defeatism repeatedly expressed a fear to me that Nixon's reputation would never recover from the rancor of his times and racism on the tapes. With each new records opening, I can see why someone could feel that way. The Times notes the devastating irony of tapes Nixon thought would cement his reputation instead having the effect of cement wingtips, dragging his historical standing further down. Having helped negotiate a three-party settlement that envisioned all the tapes being opened by 2000, I regret that the National Archives has taken this long to open the whole collection. The library now says it will take until 2012. Scholars used to blame us Nixonites for holding up the tapes. But we waved the white flag in 1996. Why will historians have had to wait at least more 16 years?
And yet all is not lost. The Nixon Center in Washington continues to promote Nixon's living principles of enlightened national interest as the foundation of the U.S.'s role in a changing world. Not only the thousands of hours of opened tapes but all the records are finally housed or available at the Nixon library -- the richest presidential collection about one of the most momentous eras in modern history. Thanks to my elder daughter Valerie, last Monday I had dinner with a young scholar from Italy who's studying relations between the U.S. and Brazil during 1971-73. She said there were four other readers working at the library last week alone.
If Nixon were still here and I could call to buck him up, I'd actually be the first to mention the Jews. I'd remind him that they wandered in the wilderness for at least 40 years. I'd say, "Mr. President, you've still got a shot at the promised land. All you need is a few historians and biographers who are willing to take the sweet with the bitter. Just one good book from an independent voice: Manna from heaven."