"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Monday, March 22, 2010


There is Yemen stuff below, for those of you who are here for that.  But I was wondering about something earlier, regarding US politics.  Do you think Michelle Bachmann gets jealous of Sarah Palin?  Like, she thinks to herself, "Hey- I'm a moderately attractive, gleefully ignorant, mendacious incendiary theocratic loon too!  Why doesn't anyone think I'm presidential?"

Health care is out of my league- I think I understand the outlines, but I don't write about it at all.  Leave that to Cohn and Klein.  I'd only make a fool of myself writing about it, which doesn't usually stop me, but did.  That said, what a beautiful night it was last night.  I never thought much of Pelosi as a leader, but I was wrong.  Everyone thought it was dead, but passing reform was always the right thing to do, and piecemeal reform would not have worked.   And she didn't let it die. 

Obama, I think, is a singular figure.  When voting for him, I didn't think, well, I am voting for the Democrat.  I was voting for him.  Like every other Democrat, I frequently hate my party.  But yesterday they made me wildly proud to be one, possibly for the first time.   The could have quailed at the outrage and the sanctimonious false piousness being offered them by the Republicans and the media, but they didn't.   They remembered that in 2008 millions went to the polls hoping to make this a more livable, humane country, and they made good on their promise.   I would be shocked if any of them read this- but thank you.

Also, I am a little surprised that when the polls were down, people said the Dems had to listen to them.  Don't we always rip on politicians for obsessively studying the polls?  Weren't the same Republicans who ripped on the Dems for ignoring the people the ones who (rightly) praised George Bush for ignoring popularity to implement the surge?   I am not remotely surprised at the hypocrisy, but am a little surprised I haven't heard that before (which doesn't mean it wasn't said elsewhere).

On a similar note, Mark Lynch has an essay about what this means for the Middle East and the Obama administration's plans.  He judiciously and justly makes both cases, but I am going to quote a paragraph that illustrates why I believe that Barack Obama is the best pol of my lifetime.

The "long game" version is that Obama has a signature method when tackling difficult, long-term objectives, whether health care, Israeli-Palestinian peace or Iran. Obama's method is to lay out an ambitious but realistic final status objective in stark terms and then to let political hardball unfold around those objectives. His most fervent opposition gets more and more outraged, raising the rhetorical pitch until they discredit themselves with key mainstream audiences who recoil from their overheated, apocalyptic and nutty words. And then, just as the Washington DC conventional wisdom declares his ambition dead, they suddenly wake up to the reality that he's won. How'd that happen? The final outcome isn't as pure as many would like, but it's nevertheless a substantial, major achievement against all expectations.


  1. So does Obama's "long game" strategy include continued toughness on Israel? It seems like as soon as Biden got a bit tough on them, Obama and Clinton quickly backtracked on the rhetoric. There's no path to peace in the area if Israel has a blank check from us on whatever they want to do- that is clear. Is there a way for a national politician to stay tough on Israel and still win an election? Are there really that many single-issue voters that Israel is their issue? There is clearly a right thing to do here, but few have been willing to actually do it.

  2. I think so, and I think we are getting there. The tide has turned a little bit, and I think you see a lot of people saying that to actually be friends with Israel we need them to every once in a while throw us a bone. AIPAC seemed hardly chastened, of course, but they also seemed kind of irrelevant this year. Maybe I was too concerned with other things, but I saw them as more spitting into the wind this year.

  3. I think there's momentum gathering, even among Jews, for the US taking a tougher line on Israel.

  4. The long game is that this massive new entitlement program means that America will have to scale back its security role in the world because the country is broke and can not afford both guns and "universal butter for everyone". The United States is Europe now.