[S]omeone who has listened to thousands of hours of a president’s national security classified and personal conversations, as I have, never will hero worship a president of either party.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Earle's tribute to his friend and fellow singer-songwriter, the late Townes van Zandt. Earle's first novel, I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, comes out in May. Interviewed by the LA Times, Earle succinctly covers some theological ground:
To me, religion is an agreement between a group of people about what God is. Spirituality is a one-on-one relationship.
To the notion that Obama has a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview, the sensible response is: If only. Obama's natural habitat is as American as the nearest faculty club; he is a distillation of America's academic mentality; he is as American as the other professor-president, Woodrow Wilson. A question for former history professor Gingrich: Why implicate Kenya?
Friday, March 4, 2011
Now we know why. Since last August, the bishop and his family have been quietly challenging Israel's decision to deny them a renewal of their residency visas. Anonymous parties have made charges about real estate deals which he strenuously denies and which may result from rivalries within the diocese (oh, we church people!). Several governments and Buckingham Palace have all weighed in to try to solve the problem diplomatically. The matter became public this week when he filed a lawsuit. As the British Guardian reports today:
A senior church source outside Israel said: "No one can figure out what the Israelis are playing at. This is not the kind of message they should be sending out. They really don't need to be doing this. Dawani is a very decent, good man and no one has produced any evidence against him. As far as we can tell there is no substance to any accusations."
The bishop's office said: "This situation has continued for over six months as Bishop Dawani attempted to resolve this with restraint and without causing the government of Israel embarrassment. The lack of resolution, despite all the efforts, required [him] to seek legal counsel ... upon the recommendation ... he has chosen to take the case to court, seeking redress through the Israeli legal system."
In London an Israeli embassy spokesman said: "Israel is not interested in any unnecessary delays but the allegations are still under official review. We understand it is causing damage as long as it remains unresolved."
As Jennifer Pozner points out in her recent book “Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty-Pleasure TV,” misogyny is embedded within the DNA of the reality genre. One of the very first millennial shows, in fact, “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire,” was notable in that it auctioned off what producers called the “biggest prize of all”: a supposedly wealthy B-movie writer named Rick Rockwell — who was later revealed to have had a restraining order filed against him by a woman he’d threatened to kill. According to Ms. Pozner, the reaction of one of the producers of “Multimillionaire” was, “Great! More publicity!”
On reality television, gratuitous violence and explicit sexuality are not only entertainment but a means to an end. These enthusiastically documented humiliations are positioned as necessities in the service of some final prize or larger benefit — a marriage proposal, a modeling contract, $1 million. But they also make assault and abasement seem commonplace, acceptable behavior, tolerated by women and encouraged in men.
Those who were watching the ABC evening news last night got the additional shock of ex-Nixon aide Diane Sawyer leading with Bill Gates' criticism of public schools giving automatic raises to teachers who have seniority and advanced degrees. Teachers already feel they're being scapegoated in the battles between states and public employee unions. They can't be pleased that the Lord High Nerd of the Universe has appeared to lend some momentum to Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker's bid to take away teachers' rights to non-salary collective bargaining.
For decades, conservatives such as Walker have been zeroing in on our allegedly poor teachers and their pernicious unions. Is it just because they think educators are a bunch of liberals? If so, that's often what you get when you under-compensate the highly educated. If you want to bring up the money teacher unions give to politicians, I'll bring up Citizens United, and we'll call that one a draw.
But teachers have those fat contracts we've been hearing about, you say. Turns out the union bosses have only won them $40,000-$44,000 a year (the national averages for elementary and high school teachers). While Gates has a point about giving them (or anyone) automatic raises, revoking most of their bargaining rights, as Walker proposes, is overkill. Instead, our elected representatives might consider getting a clue and negotiating with all their employees during revenue peaks on the assumption that recessions are right around the corner. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey argued as much this week. (I'd pay public school teachers $80,000-$100,000 and base all tenure and raises on merit. Lucky for taxpayers, nobody cares what I think.)
Conservatives are also suspicious of public education's doctrines of secularism and multiculturalism. Today's war against teacher unions appears to be a continuation by other means of the battles over prayer in schools and creationism vs. evolution. It's in this area where some conservatives betray a latent statist mindset. Many of them apparently think public school teachers are supposed to do parents' jobs as well as their own.
I've been teaching religion at a private school for five years. While I lack the gifts, experience, and endurance of colleagues who teach all day long, I've learned a thing or two about the opportunities and limitations of being a classroom teacher. Great ones can make a big difference in students' lives. But great parents make all the difference. If a student comes to school with good manners and work habits, she'll take value home whether I'm having a good day or not. Without those qualities, there's not too much the most inspired teacher can to do to compensate. When students bring along religious faith, a grounding in evolutionary biology, or any other homespun perspective, the teacher won't be able to change their minds even if he wants to. Just try telling a child that mom or dad is wrong.
Though we talk about faith in a broad and inclusive way, St. John's is a Christian school. The children come to chapel every day, and to reclaim their attention during New Testament class, I sometimes belt out the Gloria in excelsis. Are the parents of our Jewish and Muslim students afraid we're trying to convert them? Of course not. Parents who pay attention to their children's social, ethical, and academic formation help prepare them to maintain their individuality and thrive in any setting. They won't be a tabula rasa for the NEA, the Episcopal Church, or anyone else. In the end, what worries me even more than some conservative parents' distrust of teachers is their apparent lack of faith in themselves.
Only an Obama gamble can break the logjam by September. He should go to Jerusalem in May and address the Knesset. He should spell out all the ways America will guarantee Israel’s security. He must coax Israel from the siege mentality that blinds it to the opportunities multiplying around it. He can spread the love.
A new Middle East deserves more than an old Israel.
When President Reagan ended communism, the bureaucrats talked and talked about how to take the Berlin Wall down and give the people back their freedoms. But they couldn't figure it out. So you know what? One day the people just went and got their little hammers and they took it down themselves!Hat tip to Maarja Krusten
Thursday, March 3, 2011
[H]e will be approaching the end of his second term. Obama will be on his way out. Joe Biden will be too old to succeed him. And the Republican Party will be even more desperate for new blood than it is now.
Check back in. Chances are Christie will feel a little readier then.
Goldblog Central has been hearing rumors and intimations for some time that Bibi is going to announce something dramatic -- perhaps before a joint session of Congress (a friendlier audience than the Knesset, by a long shot). How dramatic? This is what is unclear. It's got to be pretty dramatic to keep Bibi's ostensible allies, President Obama and Angela Merkel among them, from giving up on him. According to Ha'aretz, Bibi has been telling associates that he fears the creation of a binational state in Israel's place if the country fails to allow the birth of a Palestinian state next door. He is even said to be thinking about endorsing a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
Protesters outside the Yorba Linda Community Center during a Feb. 13 fundraiser hosted by an Islamic non-profit organization. Rep. Ed Royce, shown in the freeze frame, released a statement saying that while he regretted the insults hurled by some of the protesters, he attended the rally to oppose the presence of two radical Islamic speakers.
Hat tip to Liberal OC
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
One thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American ... his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British are a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.Obama never lived in Kenya, and his father essentially abandoned him.
Tonight Huckabee went on Fox News (which employs him) to defend himself. He told Bill O'Reilly that he'd made a verbal gaffe after participating in 40 interviews in a row and that he'd written in the book he was promoting that Obama had grown up in Hawaii and Indonesia. Without even the hint of an apology to Obama, he quickly went on the offensive, blaming the "left-wing media" for covering the story. He made a Palinesque reference to one of Obama's own microgaffes (the "57 states" one). He said that growing up in a foreign country meant that Obama had a "different world view," the result of not being a Boy Scout or playing Little League, a point which enabled Huckabee to minimize Obama's Hawaii years to the point of insignificance, just as his enormogaffe had done. (Obama, who plays basketball, lived in Indonesia between ages six and 10.) Huckabee concluded by saying that refusing to say that Obama hates America "makes me persona non grata with some conservatives."
Huckabee's performance on Fox added some credence to the idea that he said just what he meant to say during his radio interview -- or, at the very least, that he doesn't especially regret it. As he continues to ponder whether to announce for president later this year, he candidly admitted to O'Reilly that he's mindful of those members of the conservative base who think Obama is disloyal (what other construction can one put on "hates America")? Now he's got a twofer. His Kenyan kilogaffe gave him a little boost with the fringe right. His denial gave him a chance to claim victimization by the left (as though conservatives wouldn't have howled with rage at a leading Democrat's internally coherent, 15-second-long supergaffe about the upbringing of Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush). Without being a Birther, he's won himself some Birther cred, an ambiguity that might help a candidate win the nomination and then actually contend in November.
When half of likely GOP voters believe Obama is a Muslim and liar, most candidates probably assume they have to go around the bend to be nominated. That's what Huckabee's doing, whether with his gigantogaffe or his Fox News defense of it. But thinking you have to do it doesn't make it right. You can choose not run. You can switch parties. You can even boldly denounce all toxic, paranoid fantasies, say, "I know the president loves our country no less than I do," and then disagree with him on every single issue. That's the way it used to be done.
While the Catholic Church has for five decades taught that Jews weren't collectively responsible, Jewish scholars said Wednesday the argument laid out by the German-born pontiff, who has had his share of mishaps with Jews, was a landmark statement from a pope that would help fight anti-Semitism today.
"Holocaust survivors know only too well how the centuries-long charge of 'Christ killer' against the Jews created a poisonous climate of hate that was the foundation of anti-Semitic persecution whose ultimate expression was realized in the Holocaust," said Elan Steinberg of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.
The pope's book, he said, not only confirms church teaching refuting the deicide charge "but seals it for a new generation of Catholics."
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
The senator from South Dakota may have been true to the values I and others shared, but he was out of step with what the majority of Americans believed, and what they wanted the future to look like. Not just our faction, but fifty-one percent or more. He extolled our principles powerfully, but did not match up with those held by the bulk of American voters. McGovern could win primaries where a minority held sway, but not a general election.
The Tea Party segment of the Republican Party may be heading in the same direction, to a similar result of short-term victory and larger defeat.
Having come of age during the Vietnam war era, which saw some extraordinarily heated rhetoric used by some on the left against Richard Nixon, I never thought I would see so much vitriol again, with equally awful rhetoric now being used against Barack Obama by some on the right. The hatred, the reliance on lies or hyperbole, the disregard for the harm being done to the nation and to their side, seems much the same to me, it’s just coming from the other end of the political spectrum.
Monday, February 28, 2011
There's no denying that the libraries are remarkable institutions. Museum visitors and researchers can gain a deeper appreciation of a president by doing their work in his birthplace or home town. As I saw during 19 years as director of the Nixon library in Yorba Linda (shown here from the air), a community can take great pride in playing host to a favorite son's and someday daughter's library.
But such intangible benefits aside, in an age of federal austerity can we afford a burgeoning archipelago of presidential monuments? It probably depends on technology and how much leverage the National Archives is prepared to withstand from rich donors.
Because of Congress's post-Watergate reforms, presidential records have automatically become the property of the U.S., which has to store them someplace. Since it was launched by FDR, the library system has been a distinctive model of public-private partnership in which presidents' rich friends have provided them and the public with expensive, high-tech warehouses.
It'll be interesting to see whether President Obama chooses Honolulu or Chicago for his library. You can bet that both cities are vying for the privilege. Either way, it might end up being smaller than his predecessors'. If his office is anything like yours and mine, he's using a lot less paper than he would have ten years ago, resulting in fewer acid-free Hollinger boxes stuffed with memos and letters.
Let's look at the raw numbers. The Nixon library says it has 46 million pages of records from a five and a half-year presidency in which IBM Selectric typewriters were state of the art. The Reagan library has 50 million pages covering its still-pre-high tech eight years. One-term President Bush has 40 million pages. But then eight-year President Clinton, at 77 million pages, couldn't quite double 41's total. The George W. Bush library, now under construction in Texas, says it has "millions." Maybe they're still counting them.
Experts on electronic records can say for sure, but I'd think that the volume of paper will decline as more and more governmental business is transacted digitally. It's true that the libraries also house gifts, photographs, and myriad other items. For some things, the White House will always use paper. If we declare war or adopt a $2 trillion budget, I want to see more than a text message or an exchange of e-mails. But now that the textual output of an administration can be housed on a few MacBooks, Congress has to be wondering whether we really need a new $250 million warehouse (the projected cost of Bush 43's library) every four to eight years, especially when taxpayers foot the bill for running them.
To help with expenses, as Trujillo's article also notes, the National Archives has an eye on the tens of millions of dollars private presidential foundations hold in trust. It would already have some of those funds in hand if the history of the Nixon library were different.
In 1996, as Nixon's legal co-executor I worked with the feds on a $26 million settlement of a lawsuit he'd brought to be compensated for the government's taking of his records after Watergate in 1974. We were days away from inviting his daughters to Washington for a signing ceremony when the settlement was blocked by members of the Nixon family. They thought we could get more money by trying the case in federal court.
In April 1997, someone leaked the news of the $26 million to the Washington Post. "The settlement is dead," Tricia Cox told me confidently. She was right. But the Nixon family's legal eagles were wrong. The Nixon foundation and estate ended up with millions less. The National Archives got a worse deal, too, since we'd promised to put a portion of the $26 million in an endowment to help operate the library and reduce the bill for taxpayers.
As pressure grows on the federal budget, the National Archives will need even more private money to help it carry out its public trust as stewards of our history. Watergate's deathless admonition was "follow the money." When a president's friends pay for the museum in his library, how much influence do they and the president or his family have over content? Quite a bit, judging by most new libraries' hagiographic museums.
Politics and money can also be a factor when older museums, aiming for more balance and objectivity, decide to update exhibits about controversial questions. Thirty-eight years after Nixon's resignation, Nixon library director Tim Naftali, trying to complete an assignment he received from NARA official Sharon Fawcett (shown above left with Nixon's last chief of staff, Kathy O'Connor), encountered resistance from Nixon's former White House aides -- some of whom have links to the scandal, such as Dwight Chapin (shown here) -- when he tried to install a new Watergate exhibit.
It's now finally under construction. Was the delay a result of behind-the-scenes political pressure, the National Archives' increasingly desperate need for foundation cash, or some combination of both?
Whatever the answer, it may be a moot question before long. The only reasons president-friendly museums exist is that the National Archives finds it profitable to put up with them in exchange for the storage space. If a president and our national librarians ever decide to splurge on those MacBooks and learn to make do with a more modest warehouse in the Washington area for the rest of the collection, no one will have to deal with the toxic politics of curating scandals, because there won't be any more presidential museums. If that happens in the wake of the Nixon library wars, helping kill off the library system could be yet another of Richard Nixon's historic firsts.
[Tunisia is] relatively small (about 11 million people). It's a middle-income country, with a per capita national income of about $9,500. Its population is relatively educated; one reason for the revolution was that too many college graduates were unemployed. Its revolution was largely peaceful; it suffers from no major ethnic or sectarian conflicts.
The people of Tunisia were the ones who started this wave of democratization. Now we should help them complete it.
One of the exhibits deals with Clinton’s impeachment, which the library claims was purely political. Part of the permanent display claims: "The impeachment battle was not about the Constitution or the rule of law, but was instead a quest for power that the president's opponents could not win at the ballot box."
The truth is, Bill Clinton lied under oath to protect himself from a woman accusing him of sexual harassment. The investigation ended with his impeachment and the surrender of his law license… Period.
Historians have ranked Bill Clinton last, behind President Nixon on "moral-authority."
Nixon resigned in disgrace and later opened a library which presents a candid look at the facts about the Watergate scandal. Nothing is hidden, nothing is spun. Visitors to the Nixon Presidential Library are given the opportunity to draw their own conclusions.
The canny Nixonian blogger would just let that pleasing assertion lie (so to speak). But as Nixon's ex-chief of staff, having overseen and edited all the exhibits at the Nixon library when they were being written, designed, and constructed by contractors and assistants during 1988-90, I can tell you that we spun Watergate harder than a Whirpool on steroids. Our talking points were exactly the same as the Clinton library's: The president's opponents used the scandal for political payback.
As with all good spin, ours embodied some truth. Impeachment is always a political act. Just ask Andrew Johnson. While our Watergate gallery was never popular with journalists and historians, critics such as David Greenberg tried and failed to identify errors.
The problems were matters of thoroughness as well as tone. After Nixon died in 1994 and we decided that his privately operated library should be part of the National Archives, it was obvious to the feds and me (I was then running the library) that the exhibit had to go, if for reasons of common sense alone. In museum exhibits, polemics work just like in newspaper columns like Gibson's and blogs like mine. If you agree, you're satisfied; if you disagree, you're offended; and if you're open-minded, you're inclined to be suspicious that you're not getting the whole story.
That why in 2006, at my suggestion National Archives official Sharon Fawcett assigned the Nixon library's first federal director, historian Tim Naftali, to create a new Watergate exhibit that would (using Dave Gibson's words, ironically enough) give visitors the opportunity to draw their own conclusions about modern political history's worst scandal. Nixon's White House aides, some of them personally involved, resisted it, just as Clinton spurned a neutral narrative about his troubles.
It took the Reagan library until this year to uncover the Iran-contra scandal, which occurred 24 years ago. Thirty-eight years after Nixon's resignation, Naftali's Watergate installation is now underway. Perhaps he should invite Gibson to the ribbon cutting -- along with his NARA colleagues in Little Rock and elsewhere who might learn from his experience, warts, scars, and all. Deficit permitting, hazardous duty pay may even be in order.
Hat tip to Maarja Krusten
For many women of Pat’s generation, feminism seemed confusing, threatening and insulting. Many had worked their whole lives, not just as wives and mothers, but outside the home. They had not seen themselves as oppressed. They were proud of their accomplishments as wives and mothers. These women related to Pat’s loyalty to her husband and daughters, and her appreciation of their unpaid labor for good causes.
Pat was not unsympathetic to the feminist camp, however. She lobbied her husband to appoint a woman Supreme Court justice and gave him the silent treatment when he failed to listen to her advice. She quietly voiced her support for the ERA. Pat pushed even the limits of fashion: she was the first First Lady to appear in public in pants. Importantly, her career as her husband’s representative to foreign countries such as Venezuela and Ghana established a precedent for future First Ladies.
Pat’s low-key actions were not enough to please the feminists, who characterized her as the epitome of the suppressed wife who did her husband’s bidding. What they overlooked was her choice to adopt the job of political wife and her efforts to expand that position. Housewives around the country who supported her and feminists who disparaged her efforts did not realize the part she was playing in transforming women’s place in American political life.
[F]or Al Qaeda — and perhaps no less for the American policies that have been built around the threat it poses — the democratic revolutions that have gripped the world’s attention present a crossroads. Will the terrorist network shrivel slowly to irrelevance? Or will it find a way to exploit the chaos produced by political upheaval and the disappointment that will inevitably follow hopes now raised so high?
For many specialists on terrorism and the Middle East, though not all, the past few weeks have the makings of an epochal disaster for Al Qaeda, making the jihadists look like ineffectual bystanders to history while offering young Muslims an appealing alternative to terrorism.
“So far — and I emphasize so far — the score card looks pretty terrible for Al Qaeda,” said Paul R. Pillar, who studied terrorism and the Middle East for nearly three decades at the C.I.A. and is now at Georgetown University. “Democracy is bad news for terrorists. The more peaceful channels people have to express grievances and pursue their goals, the less likely they are to turn to violence.”
Sometimes, when I get discouraged because it feels to me as if we’ve given too much power to the angry, the disgruntled, the haters, the extremists, the people on the fringes, I think back on how my sister lived her life. Barack Obama recently said, very wisely in my view, that how we treat each other is entirely up to us. In the way she lived her life, my sister showed a type of grace which exemplifies what the President meant. Would that there were more like her, in both political parties.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
We in the West...are proud of and attached to our liberties because we and our forefathers grasped them for themselves. This mix of patriotism and liberty is vital and necessary. To have freedom imposed is to create chaos and resentment. To have the people grasp it for themselves is to expand the horizons of a stable democracy. There will be failures and successes....We should do all we can to assist if asked. But this is their moment, not ours, their countries, not ours, and it is time to let go of the neurotic need to control the entire world and to force it into our own ideological templates. It is time to watch and listen and engage and support. It is not time to intervene.Good advice, until our interests are threatened, such as by al-Qaeda finding a safe haven somewhere in Libya or Egypt threatening to abrogate its peace treaty with Israel. Resisting the impulse to meddle may improve our position with the new regimes, but it doesn't guarantee that they'll be friendly. It's also an incredible stretch to talk about stable democracies when there still aren't any Arab democracies at all, including in Egypt and Tunisia.
In our numbers driven society it is fair to ask how many scholars use presidential materials. While it is a good question, it shouldn’t be asked alone. You must also judge the impact of the use of our materials - not just by how many researchers are visiting. This is what I refer to as the downstream affect. A single scholar might publish multiple articles, books or blog entries that will reach hundreds, thousands perhaps millions of people. That same scholar may appear on radio broadcasts or television shows reaching even more people. That is impactful. Perhaps in the future we should take a look at collecting the downstream data as a way to provide you with another yardstick to measure our impact.Happy indeed is the hard-working academic who reaches millions, especially when the typical user of the Reagan library reading room is probably working on something with a title such as "Conflict, Cooperation, And Conciliation: The U.S. And Latin America, 1983-85." But then you get the downstream...whatever. What would that be, tens of millions?
He wishes. Maybe libraries have gotten wind of budget cuts and are trying to boost their profile. It might perk up a couple of House committees on a Monday morning if you pretend that professors reach more consumers than "Toy Story 3." But you've got to worry about your credibility affect.