You know that fresh breeze that’s about to blow through the hallowed halls of Congress? Turns out that it’s going to smell an awful lot like the old breeze. In what is sure to be catalogued as the quickest row-back from a campaign promise ever, the incoming majority is forswearing its pledges of legislative bipartisanship even before they’ve been sworn in:
Continuing a proud tradition of pointing to the work of my betters (who anyway are getting paid for it) while the rest of the world is snapping at my heels, wondering if I haven’t anything better to do given the state the world is in than point to the work of my betters, I offer you this delectation from the routinely excellent Fouad Ajami:
Hands up who likes criticism – even the constructive kind?
But who thinks criticism – especially the constructive kind – is important to prevent stagnation, stultification and terminal self-satisfaction?
Not the New York Times, apparently.
After the Jayson Blair fiasco, the Times hired Dan Okrent as its “Public Editor,” essentially an ombudsman role. In that role, Okrent is chiefly remembered for answering the question, “Is the New York Times a liberal newspaper?” with, “Of course it is.” Even though he went on to say that it didn’t matter, Okrent was respected, but not much loved at the paper.
I don’t know whether or not you listen to NPR on a daily basis or not, gentle reader. I do, but then again I’m a news junkie and we do live in such interesting times. I’d hate to miss any of them, and say what you will about their “point of view,” the public broadcasting folks do a swell job of getting more insight into the news than does the other broadcast media.
Now, you have known me long enough to know that certain interpretations of the news – the spin, if you will, on objective facts – cause me to narrow my eyes, just a bit. Last weekend, just for one example, Republican Congressman-elect Brian Bilbray – a man whose nativist sympathies I hold no particular brief for, by the way – won a close fought election in the reliably Republican 50th district here in Sandy Eggo for the seat, ah… vacated by Duke Cunningham, about whom quite enough has been said in these spaces. A hard-fought campaign, a clear result, and how do we tell the tale? Well, the local spin here was not that Bilbray had “won,” but that “hope had faded” for his Democratic party adversary.
In yesterday’s WSJ, White House staffer Peter Wehner has the unmitigated gall to challenge the emergently conventional wisdom on Iraq – Chiefly that, 1) The president lied us into to war, 2) the administration pressured intelligence professionals to bias their judgments in favor of the war, 3) the failure to find WMD proves Saddam posed no threat, “imminent” or otherwise, and 4) finally, that the goal of promoting democracy in the heart of the Arab Middle East was a post-war rationalization, made up on the fly after that whole “WMD thing” didn’t pan out.
He does so by trotting out fact after tedious fact, a tactic that’s bound to drive partisan critics into spittle-flecked rage. There’s nothing really new here of course, just common sense and history lessons, so it won’t change any minds that are already closed made up, or open the eyes of the wilfully obtuse.
One of the joys of Sunday mornings for me has always been the New York Times review of books, which comes as an insert in the local paper. I’ve always loved to read, but life is pretty full right now and I don’t get the chance as much as I would like. Skimming the NYT review gives me the sense that I’m keeping up with the literary world on the cheap, time being the fire that we burn in.
Regular readers of this page – including some who disagree with me – understand that my personal opinion in the immigration debate is quite nearly as muddled as the problem itself. I support border enforcement as a necessary component of national sovereignty, while confessing that I am off-put at the probable human costs attaching to the notion of forcefully deporting some 10-12 million souls – people who have come here to make a life and escape grinding poverty by doing necessary work that few, if any, of the native-born would consider.
You’ve been hearing all the old farts complaining about the Hilton Corp’s decision to kick Fran O’Brien’s to the curb. Now listen to FbL tell it from the perspective of one of the young men who had a steak there, while recovering from wounds sustained in the line of duty:
“Hal and Marty are the two greatest men I’ve ever known,” he began. He then explained about the dinners, for those who might not know. “Not only have they given us food and a place to kick back, but they care about us, they ask us how we’re doing, they listen to us talk. And most importantly… most importantly, they give us the strength to recover, the motivation to keep going. This place is a part of our therapy.” He never stopped pacing the interior of the square bar as if addressing his troops, taking time to make eye contact with the crowd and waving his beer for effect. He admonished us to continue to support Hal and Marty. People cheered.