Friday, April 22, 2011
Sarah Palin is Trig Palin’s mother and nobody has any business claiming otherwise.Sullivan personally mainstreamed Trig birtherism, an annoying distraction to the country and injustice to the Palin family. Time for him to examine the evidence himself, end his crusade, and apologize. If he doesn't, then on this issue, he'll be the moral equivalent of Donald Trump, who ignored this evidence while leveraging himself into the 2012 campaign.
Asked in the deposition about his statements in 2007 that his net worth was $8 billion, Trump conceded: "I don't know. I don't think so. Well, maybe I'm adding 4 or 5 billion dollars worth, 3 billion, for the value of a brand. But I don't know."
Thursday, April 21, 2011
With no other Republican hopefuls gaining traction, Trump has become a blinking neon stand-in for a candidate who will go beyond mainstream boundaries and make the case for why Obama isn’t just a bad president presiding over a declining America but perhaps an illegitimate one.
Trump’s mastery of media culture is what’s landed him at least 24 interviews on national network and cable television since his effective debut as a candidate at CPAC in February, providing him with the blanket media attention that his past presidential flirtations never quite enjoyed. But it’s Birtherism that serves as the rocket fuel launching Trump into presidential orbit.
But then Jim Rutenberg, summarizing a New York Times/CBS News poll on the GOP field, cools Trump's jets:
While that might indicate that there is a receptive audience for the real estate mogul Donald J. Trump as he raises questions about Mr. Obama’s citizenship, the poll also pointed to potential roadblocks for him should he pursue a formal candidacy.
Mr. Trump has been getting considerable attention as a possibly strong contender, but just about as many Republicans view him favorably as view him unfavorably — 35 percent favorably and 32 percent unfavorably— and nearly 60 percent of Republicans interviewed said they did not believe he was a serious candidate. (Far more of all voters view him unfavorably — 46 percent — than view him favorably, 25 percent.)
So birtherism hasn't gotten Trump much traction after all. But now that he's taken it mainstream, all those who have taken the birther pledge should at least be held accountable for what they're really saying. They're accusing Barack Obama of the impeachable offense of stealing the presidency by means of fraud and other crimes. They're telling the world that the U.S. doesn't have a legitimate president.
I suppose that it could be construed as some kind of a well-meaning if totally misguided act of patriotism if a sophisticated elite like Trump really believed it, but if not -- if he or anyone else is just saying it to gain an advantage with the 47% of Republicans who have convinced themselves that Obama is a fraud and usurper -- then they should be kept as far from power as possible. The U.S. doesn't need a home-grown version of the big lie.
On Monday, the center's journal, "The National Interest," published a post by veteran journalist Marvin Kalb, titled "Diminishing Nixon," about the Nixon-Haldeman foundation's embarrassing, impotent campaign to block the federal government's new Watergate exhibit.
That indeed looked at first like a first strike. But then I reread Ben Smith's analysis at Politico of the foundation's war on Simes, the U.S.-Russia relations expert Richard Nixon chose as center president. Smith names Simes foes such as Tricia Cox (wife of New York GOP chairman Ed Cox) and longtime Cox water carriers Rob Odle (a former CREEP official) and the Nixon White House's Ken Khachigian. All three are foundation board members.
Some of the hits on Simes aren't attributed. If he got wind of the smears as the article was being prepared and concluded that they were coming from persons associated with the foundation, he would naturally have surmised that they considered the agreement they had signed to be (as Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler might have said) inoperative. Whether or not Simes would have been correct in such assumptions, Kalb's blog post would then have been (in the increasingly apropos mutually-assured-destruction language of the Cold War) a Simes counterstrike.
Any priest or minister conducting a wedding is bound to feel a huge sense of privilege. You’re invited into some intimate places in people’s lives. You’re invited to take part in a very significant moment, a moment of hope; a moment of affirmation about people’s present and future. And I’ve felt very privileged to be part of this event for those reasons. Here are young people sending a message of hopefulness, sending a message of generosity across the world. And it’s my privilege to be able to bless that in the name of God, to witness it in the name of God.I wonder if he did the counseling. And watch on TV for the moment Prince Charles slaps him on the back and hands him an envelope containing a nice card and £200.
If Obama wants to offer a convincing vision of the federal government's role, he will need to recognize the growing imbalance between generosity for the old and investment in future generations. Preserving our biggest entitlement programs in their current form because they have a powerful constituency is hardly a progressive stance. It's the definition of reactionary liberalism.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Ben Smith argues against [Sarah] Palin's release of a birth certificate because he knows in advance that this would not stop the conspiracy theorists.
For the record, I have simply asked for some medical records establishing maternity since the day I found out about the weirdnesses of the story. If provided, I would regard the question as closed as the Obama birther certificate question. I tried to clear this up privately with the McCain campaign, but they had no clue either. The difference between the two cases, as Ben acknowledges, is that one public figure has provided easily available definitive evidence to end the debate; the other says she has - but hasn't.
Wrong. Sullivan published first, on Aug. 31, 2008, and asked questions later. He should admit that he was wrong to give mainstream credibility to a fabricated story without checking the facts. I'd bet at this point that Palin's refusing just to spite him. Besides, Ben Smith is probably right. Conspiracy theorists eat facts for breakfast.
"It's downright embarrassing," confessed one former Republican House member, when apprised of the results. Of course, Trump's chances of winning the GOP nomination are exceedingly remote, to say the least, and his poll numbers are all about name recognition. Anyone assuming that the reality-show host's interest in running for president is just another one of his publicity stunts would not likely be wrong. But what does it say about the Republican Party or, for that matter, the American people that this guy gets a second glance? Could a "Jersey Shore" personality be far behind? Legitimate Republican candidates have to wonder whether they'll be sharing a stage in the early debates with characters straight out of the bar scene in "Star Wars"?Hat tip to Tom Tierney
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
As he labored on his laptop, I pestered him with questions about the dramatic changes afoot in the newspaper business (my parents' field and briefly my own) and the role of his scrappy news organization, which prints five issues a week when Congress is in session but seems to be better known for its web site. The president and CEO is former Reagan aide Fred Ryan.
Hohmann smiled ruefully and nodded when I observed that Politico reporters appear to file a lot of copy, as they used to say in the business. From his lengthy report, which he filed within three hours of the end of the event:
My own take on the evening here.
In the crowd was John Taylor, the longtime director of the museum and a former chief of staff to Nixon after his presidency.
“Mr. Woodward is the most famous journalist in the world, not an ideological figure by any means, and someone who is integrally, along with his editor Mr. Bradlee, part of the story of those times,” he said beforehand. “And eventually it would look strange if the library didn’t invite people like Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bradlee because, again, the visiting public understands that they’re part of the story.”
Taylor approached Woodward after the event.
Woodward told him that he didn’t want to sugarcoat his message — that Nixon loyalists tried to manipulate history — just because he was speaking at the Nixon Library.
Taylor, who stepped down in 2009 from his museum post and now serves full-time as an Episcopal priest, indicated that he understood and joked with his wife [Kathy O'Connor, Nixon's last chief of staff] about the two of them being “field marshals in the war against history.”
“History will work it out,” he said, expressing confidence that Nixon will be judged better with the passage of time.
This year, Bishop Diane celebrated, Bishop Mary preached a warmly pastoral sermon (trust God's abundant love and risk abundantly!), and Bishop Jon genially oversaw proceedings. Each deacon and priest got a personal episcopal blessing. Refreshed, renewed, and lunched, we came home with newly blessed vials of holy oil for our churches' healing and baptism services.
The picture at top shows my presbyteral buds the Revs. Kirby Smith, newly installed as vicar of Faith Episcopal Church in Laguna Niguel (red), Michael Bamberger, co-chair of the Commission on Ministry (black), and my fellow blogger Susan Russell (flash), who returned the favor.
On one side of the argument, Smith writes, were top Nixonians such as Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and James Schlesinger. On the other were the Haldeman acolytes along with veteran Simes-bashers Tricia and Ed Cox (when Simes and I worked together, Ed Cox, now the New York state GOP chairman, liked to call Simes "an aide to an aide"), Cox intimate and former CREEP official Rob Odle (now the Nixon-Haldeman foundation's lawyer), and another Cox water carrier, ex-speechwriter and political consultant Ken Khachigian.
The ruthless tactics of the anti-Simes group are in full view in Politico, including unsubstantiated charges of financial impropriety and worse. Smith reports a hint by Tricia Cox that Simes, a Russian-born U.S. citizen whose parents defended Soviet refuseniks in the Brezhnev era, was influenced by the KGB, foreshadowing a more recent suggestion on the Nixon foundation's blog that another enemy of the Haldeman cohort, Nixon library director Tim Naftali, should go run a museum honoring an actual spy, traitor Alger Hiss.
While no Simes critic identified by Smith manages a coherent critique of the ex-Nixon Center's foreign policy pragmatism, they were mad enough to give the center at least $2 million of the assets of the non-profit Nixon foundation just to force Simes to stop using Nixon's name. At the same time, it appears that the center was getting more and more embarrassed by its association with the Watergate revanchists in Yorba Linda. But especially because the foundation had gone off the rails, I wish the center had fought harder on behalf of the vision Nixon had enthusiastically embraced of a foreign policy institution bearing his name in Washington.
In the wake of the embarrassment suffered by the Haldeman crew because of its failure to block Naftali's Watergate exhibit, is the center second-guessing its decision to abandon Nixon? According to Smith, the foundation and center executed a non-disparagement agreement as part of the payoff deal. It didn't keep the center's blog, "The National Interest," from publishing a post this week accusing Haldeman's operatives of "diminishing Nixon."
Especially ironic are concerns about "the foundation's governance" expressed by Orange County printer Kris Elftmann, a foundation ex-chairman. No one did more than Elftmann to turn Nixon's legacy over to Haldeman's men, including persons involved in Watergate or Watergate-related activities. While Elftmann's concerns about the foundation's governance decisions may be legitimate, the one he probably regrets most was the Haldeman clique's refusal to give him the jumbo-salary foundation "president" job that he sought last fall. When he was rebuffed, he walked out of a board meeting and moved his flag to Simes' shop.
"Hit it with your stick," Woodward said genially, nodding toward Bradlee's cane. Later, as Woodward referred in his measured cadences to Richard Nixon's emotional farewell to his White House staff on Aug. 8, 1974, Bradlee got a laugh from the audience by pretending to saw on a violin.
I thought to myself that, like the Band, they should take their show on the road, which, of course, they have, for most of the last 40 years. How often has Woodward told the story of finding E. Howard Hunt's name in a Watergate burglar's notebook next to the notation "W House"? "We realized that could only mean two things," he said, pausing expertly for 600 knowing laughs before applying the rim shot. "Carl Bernstein called the whorehouse, and I called the White House." And then: "Ben doesn't like this, but I'll say it anyway. All good work is done in defiance of management." Turning to his ex-boss Bradlee, he said, "Go ahead. Give me the finger." With practiced timing, Bradlee complied.
Comic turns by old colleagues and friends couldn't take all the sting out of the story of an administration and a nation in crisis. Woodward was especially moving as he described how, after 25 years, he'd come to the conclusion that Gerald Ford had done the right thing in pardoning Nixon. He said that when he and Bernstein open more reporting files from their second book, The Final Days, people will be surprised to find that one of Nixon's intimates was especially helpful, having concluded by late 1972 that he was doomed.
Now that we know the name of Woodward's most famous source, FBI official Mark Felt, the architecture of the Post's Watergate story is clearer than ever before. Woodward said last night that he first checked with Felt after learning within a few days of the Watergate break-in of the connection between Hunt and White House operative Chuck Colson. Felt replied that the Post would be on the right track with any negative story about Colson and Hunt -- another laugh line, but also a reminder that a powerful official was using his access to raw FBI files to undermine the president who had denied him the prize of the FBI directorship.
Woodward is shown above with Kathy O'Connor, Nixon's last chief of staff, who organized the campaign to build the $13.5 million wing where Woodward and Bradlee spoke and where the Nixon White House and Bob Haldeman operatives now controlling Nixon's foundation, although absent last night, keep their offices.
During the question period, I asked Woodward to remind his audience when he'd first met Mark Felt. In the Nixon White House, he replied, when Woodward was still a naval officer. I'm skeptical about the theory that the reporter was part of a "Seven Days In May"-style conspiracy hatched by the Pentagon and proto-neocons against a president who was making peace with the Soviets and Chinese and in Vietnam (although Woodward retains exceptionally good sources among the brass). Still, Felt's resentment of Nixon and revelations of his own illegal activities have muddied the Watergate. Woodward said in passing that Felt "had some glimpse" of intelligence community abuses. That's for sure. At the same time he was waxing pious with the Post about Nixon administration abuses, he was ordering illegal black bag jobs against the anti-Vietnam war Weathermen.
When Kathy and I greeted Woodward after the event, with characteristic solicitousness he asked for our impressions of his comments. I told him that I had always experienced him as a bit of a Watergate puritan, so offended by Nixon's lapses that he had trouble taking a balanced view of Nixon's legacy. But last night, he ended on a hopeful note, beginning with what President George W. Bush had said about how history would view the Iraq war. In an Oval Office interview with Woodward, Bush shrugged and said he didn't much care, "because we'll all be dead." Same with Nixon legacy, he said. It's not for us in our time to decide whether Nixon's foreign policy achievements will ultimately outweigh his failures.
Perhaps something about being welcomed to the Nixon library, with its new Watergate exhibit finally open to the taxpaying public, enabled a mellower Woodward. As for the library, last night was a boon because it proved the roof wouldn't cave in when Nixon was criticized, not because we were going to hear a fully nuanced story of modern politics' greatest scandal, no matter how integral our speakers' roles in uncovering it. Researchers in the bowels of the Nixon library may have some work to do even on that seemingly settled but complicated subject. After their talk, as I photographed Bradlee, Naftali, and Woodward, I told them that in profile, they looked like Mount Rushmore. Woodward responded, "Let history decide!"
Monday, April 18, 2011
An overwhelming number of Afghan men living in the region that is a major front in the U.S.-led war on the Taliban don't know anything about the terrorist attacks that brought international soldiers to Afghanistan, according to a report from an international policy think tank...
“I don’t see Donald Trump trudging around in the snows of Iowa wearing ear flaps and trudging around the country fair,” said a top official at the Southern Baptist Convention, Richard Land. “But look, we live in the celebrity age. He is a celebrity. He's got the name recognition. He’s got the money. He certainly appears to have the moxie. So maybe Americans are ready for a brash New Yorker.”
I'd speculated that Trump's longtime friend and adviser, former Nixon-Reagan operative Roger Stone, was the one who'd nudged him into the swamp of birtherism, where many a 2012 GOP prospect risks getting irretrievably mired. But Haberman and Smith report that Stone denies any direct involvement with Trump's current political activities. That could be because it's true. It also could be because the always controversial Stone doesn't want to end up as a stumbling block for the sufficiently controversial Trump.
As I've noted at the "National Interest" site, while I strongly supported Naftali's efforts to install the new exhibit, Kalb attributed words to me elsewhere in his post that were written by historian Robert KC Johnson.
Unlike most other presidents, Richard Nixon seems never able to rest in peace. Apparently, not even at the Nixon Library. Recently, a new Watergate Exhibit was opened, and predictably [Ron and Anne Walker] were outraged. According to Mrs. Walker, who was in attendance, the current Director, Timothy Naftali, in his introductory remarks, never “missed using one accusatory buzz word” after another: “abuse of power,” “dirty tricks,” “whitewash,” and “cover up.” Naftali was even asked whether Nixon was anti-semitic, and, lo and behold, noted Mrs. Walker, a “very few days later, several news stories contained newly released quotes on that very subject.” She had hoped that the new exhibit would be “fair and balanced,” (a description familiar to any Fox viewer), but “it did not come out that way”...
Ron [Walker] was head of Nixon’s advance team at the White House. Sharing his loyalist views are other former staffers, now gathered around the Nixon Foundation: Larry Higby, who was Bob Haldeman’s deputy, and Dwight Chapin, who was deputy assistant to Nixon, among others.
Rather than think about the Nixon Library as a weapon in a political war, the Walkers might try to let Nixon be Nixon, blemishes and all, and then have faith in the library visitor to reach a “fair and balanced” judgment of Richard Nixon’s place in American history.Kalb says that 37's greatest victories were in foreign policy. Not only did Nixon agree, he hoped the work would continue. With the support of Henry Kissinger and other high-ranking associates, he founded the Nixon Center to apply his principles of enlightened pragmatism to the challenges the United States faced in the post-Cold War world. It's hard to be sure what he would've thought about the Watergate exhibit in Yorba Linda. But there's no doubt he'd be deeply disappointed that his living legacy has lost its toehold in Washington.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
He said he’d only be interested in current U.S. military actions in Iraq or Libya if the U.S. got the oil from those nations.
From Portland, Oregon, where Kathy and I spent the end of the week, the Decemberists and a song from their album "The King Is Dead." R.E.M.'s Peter Buck plays guitar on the studio version. I don't think guitarist Chris Funk is playing a Rickenbacker, as Buck probably did. But he's definitely got that Buck-Byrds jangle. That's Gillian Welch on backing vocals. This performance is from Conan a couple of months ago.
[F]or the third time since the end of the cold war, NATO has accepted a major mission and then demonstrated that it does not have the unity of purpose or the military capability to perform it. At least, not without the United States dominating. Meanwhile, the United States has not fully grappled with the idea that NATO may have outlived its usefulness: Its costs may outweigh the contribution it makes to American security, and the notion that the U.S. needs to remain heavily involved in European security seems less and less evident.
On July 20, 1969, President Nixon in the White House spoke to Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin at Tranquility Base. From the holdings of the Nixon library.
Alas, we cannot. Not only because it would be cheap and lazy and unbecoming, but also because Palin is too well-shielded by her own incompetence. By casting herself as the less privileged, less polished outsider in the fancy school, she fashions the rest of us into playground bullies (ironic, given her predilection for bullying language) who taunt her with big vocabularies and book learning and obsession with nuance. By playing the victim (ironic, given how closely she associates victimhood with liberal whining), Palin forces her critics to choose between the roles of merciless oppressor and guilt-ridden enabler. And since the merciless oppressor part is already played ably by various screamers on blogs, cable TV and Internet comment boards, writers like me have taken the other route, leaning over so far backward to avoid saying the obvious that we sometimes can't get enough air in our lungs to say much at all.Hat tip to Jim Leach
That's why I truly hope Palin continues to fight her temptation to run for president. If there was ever a candidate who brought out the worst in people, who encouraged hollow rejoinders but made honest analysis almost impossible, it is she. Besides, if she did run, I'd have to write about her. And all the yoga in the world wouldn't keep my spine from eventually breaking from those backbends.