Michael Tomasky (The UK Guardian)
Posts Tagged ‘guardian
The UK Guardian: If the Obama administration does nothing else, it will always compare favourably with Bush’s for its diplomacy over Libya
The New York Times called it “inconsistent”. The Wall Street Journal questioned whether “any direction” could be divined behind the decision. But in referring to America’s part in the attack on Libyan forces, the mainstream media is blind to what has been a brilliant diplomatic – and domestic – political strategy on the part of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
…Having learned the lessons of Iraq and countless other American boondoggles in the region, President Obama has played his hand deftly to avoid accusations of American imperialism and to project the optics of consensus. Today, as the United States engages once more in the Middle East, it does so with the imprimatur of a United Nations resolution and an impressive coalition of allies – not just George Bush’s “coalition of the willing” – but countries not usually associated with military intervention in the region, including France and the countries of the Arab League.
…President Obama has “played it cool” – refusing to cut short his trip to Latin America and emphasising that American action will be short (if committed). This is a far cry from the sort of chest-thumping bellicosity from the Oval Office we saw under Bush.
There are, of course, domestic politics at play here as well. America is tired of seeing its military in Iraq and Afghanistan, let alone getting involved in a new Middle Eastern conflict. But through diplomatic and strategic manoeuvering, President Obama has ensured that the United States is simply one nation among many engaging in the region, lifting some of the weight of history from the shoulders of the nation.
Full article here
‘How did the University of Virginia come to publish a version of Lincoln’s inaugural speech that cut crucial words on slavery?’
Matt Seaton (The UK Guardian): ….I was preparing for publication Eric Foner’s article on the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration speech … I went searching for a transcript of the speech to link to. The results of a Google search took me to the site of the University of Virginia’s Miller Centre of Public Affairs; reckoning this a prestigious institution at a public university (founded by Thomas Jefferson, no less), I assumed this would be a reliable link to use …
Then I reached the passage quoted by Eric’s piece, where Lincoln flatly states: “One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.”
…I searched the transcript on the Miller Centre site for this sentence but could not find it…. I sent off an email to the Miller Centre staff, alerting them to the fact that they were publishing a misleading, redacted version of Lincoln’s address; and outlining my interpretation that it looked as though the speech had been cut to remove references to slavery… I received an immediate reply; and within an hour, the webpage had been amended and the full text restored.
Since then, I’ve done a full comparison of the cached version of the page and the amended one; at the foot of this article run all the passages that had been omitted from the original…
…the sum of the redactions appeared to have two key effects: first, of toning down or removing entirely Lincoln’s strong assertions of the legitimate authority of the Union before and above the Constitution; and second, as said, of shifting the emphasis away from slavery as the key point of dispute between North and South and towards differences over the precedence and prerogative of individual states v the Union in law-making and enforcement. It is difficult not to see a neo-Confederate agenda in this editing.
It is possible that the erroneous version of Lincoln’s address was published by accident or carelessness. But the alacrity with which a correction was made suggests that Miller Centre executives realised the potential damage to the institution’s reputation of hosting what might appear to be a politically tendentious, “doctored” version of the address.
Having had a polite note from them, thanking me for pointing out the error and confirming the correction, I wrote back saying I was considering writing about it and seeking their comment on several questions (see the questions here)
In contrast to the almost instantaneous earlier response, as yet, I have received no reply to these questions. So the Miller Centre would seem to wish to make no further comment. But given that its online database of the Scripps Library purports to be a vital resource for scholars of public policy, US government and presidential history, I certainly hope they are running some checks.
Full article here
Michael Tomasky (The UK Guardian): ….President Obama’s remarks on Friday afternoon were appropriate and powerful: the people of Egypt have inspired the world. For all the understandable frustration on the part of Egyptian protesters over the fact the the US wouldn’t commit to them more fully earlier, I think Obama and his people ended up playing this rather well. They turned up the heat incrementally, and but for one or two missteps, the timing was actually pretty good.
Critics, neocons especially, will say he didn’t lead, he followed. That’s true. And that was appropriate. It was up to the Egyptian people to lead this, not the United States.
And the Egyptian military. Someday, we’ll get the back story on how, in just 24 hours, the military went from evidently backing Mubarak to ditching him. This was crucial, and I doubt very much the US played no role in this. I’d wager that Pentagon chief Robert Gates and Mike Mullen, the heads of the joint chiefs of staff, had quite a lot to do with that.
With the Egyptian army relying on US military aid basically to exist, their words surely carried weight. Maybe all that aid over years, excessive as it has been in many ways, paid important dividends in the last two weeks….
….Finally: no, I will not say that Obama deserves much credit for this. At the same time, I have no doubt in my mind that if President McCain had given a speech on democracy in Cairo 20 months ago and now this happened, the neocons and Fox News and the usual suspects would be calling it “the McCain Revolution” and baying about how it proved that a bold stance by an American president had made all the difference.
I won’t parrot that kind of inanity. I’ll simply say that, from his Cairo speech until today, Obama has helped this process more than he’s hindered it. And we didn’t have to invade two countries, either. That’s the right side – for him, and for us, the people of the United States. Now, we need to stay there.
Full article here
Time: Whatever happens next, the president’s 2011 State of the Union speech represents not a new Barack Obama, but a return to the original version. You know the one. The magnetic Barack Obama of the “Red American/Blue America” 2004 Democratic convention speech. The distinguished Barack Obama whose non-ideological best-selling book captivated the nation. The inspiring Barack Obama whose post-partisan rhetoric and promise won him the White House with decisive support, including from independent voters.
…he delivered one of the strongest efforts yet at explaining his rhetorical theory of the case for how his policies will create jobs in America. And he laid even more of a trap for Republicans, whose challenge to cut spending without damaging valuable programs or raising taxes grows more difficult by the day (and the president knows it).
…Obama’s presentation was close to flawless: upbeat and animated, leisurely and assured… by returning to his rhetorical roots – as a progressive who believes America can meet its challenges only by working across partisan lines and rejecting tired old politics and extremist demands – Obama harnessed the momentum he has had following his December bustle and Tucson leadership to achieve a soaring State of the Union.
True, there are a few predictable bits of nonsense from Halperin in the piece, but we should give him credit: it’s the first thing he’s written in about two years that didn’t mention the half-term ex Alaskan Governor. Maybe he’s suddenly noticed this President is a rather good? Welcome to the real world, Mark ;-)
CBS: An overwhelming majority of Americans approved of President Obama’s overall message in his State of the Union on Tuesday night, according to a CBS News Poll of speech watchers.
According to the poll, which was conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the president’s address, 91 percent of those who watched the speech approved of the proposals Mr. Obama put forth during his remarks, while only nine percent disapproved.
Specifically, 82 percent of those who watched the speech said they approve of the president’s plans for the economy, up from 53 percent who approved before the speech.
Even Politico – !!!!!! – conceded it was a triumph. Oooh, I bet that hurt.
President Obama’s second State of the Union was a “personal triumph” that received strong, positive reactions from Democrats and Republicans, according to an instant analysis from the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.
The firm monitored the reactions of swing voters and unmarried women from Colorado as they watched the speech. According to the analysis, before the address, the test group’s approval of the president was 30 percent – by the end of the speech, the approval rating had gone up to 56 percent.
The sample group responded very strongly to Obama’s key economic concepts, as well as to his call to educate, innovate and build. Two of the strongest moments of the night were when Obama referred to the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and when he called on millionaires to be taxed more.
Paul Begala: Obama’s SOTU: Putting the Jam on the Lower Shelf So the Little People Can Reach It …. We have long known that Barack Obama can do the “vision thing.” In this State of the Union address, though, he did the specific thing … President Obama spoke directly to those people — the ones Bill Clinton calls “walkin’ around folks.” I suspect a lot of those folks will be lining up to march behind the plainspoken, commonsense, practical leadership President Obama is offering.
CNN: A majority of Americans who watched President Obama’s State of the Union address said they had a very positive reaction to his speech, according to a poll of people who viewed Tuesday night’s address.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey indicated that 52 percent of speech watchers had a very positive reaction, with 32 percent saying they had a somewhat positive response and 15 percent with a negative response.
And even Paul Krugman struggled to find anything to make him OUTRAGED!!!!
Paul Krugman: Considering the rumors a few weeks ago, which suggested a cave on Social Security, this wasn’t too bad. Obama said that we’re going to do something about Social Security, but unclear what. And in general he at least somewhat stood his ground against the right. In fact, the best thing about the speech was exactly what most of the commentariat is going to condemn: Obama did not surrender to the fiscal austerity now now now types.
Simon Tisdall (The Guardian): This speech was about vision, leadership, and next year’s presidential election. It scored well on all three fronts. Obama was both stark and optimistic. He told Americans something they may not want to hear: that a country that has dominated the world for so long now risks being overtaken by China and other rising powers.
But Obama said America’s fate was in its own hands. Through increased investment in education, research and innovation, the US could reassert its global primacy. He was confident it would prevail. While calling for increased bipartisanship, Obama threw down the gauntlet to Republicans. He dared them to follow his lead in confronting America’s problems, rather than try to obstruct him. Significantly he made no apology for his landmark healthcare reforms.
….The speech will add momentum to Obama’s recent resurgence in the opinion polls. It positions him as a national rather than a sectional leader. It showed he has a clear vision of America’s path forward. And his message, in hard times, was one of infinite possibility, unity and positive endeavour. The Republicans in contrast were implicitly painted as mean, divisive, negative – and leaderless … Last night Obama looked like a winner again. It was his Apollo 13 moment.
The Guardian: Less than three months ago, Barack Obama was being declared a political corpse as his opponents seized control of the lower house of Congress and suggested that he would be president in name only.
But buttressed by a rapid turnaround in the polls, Obama will use his annual state of the union address tomorrow to position himself as the voice of the centre, appealing for his political opponents to find common ground in the face of the Republicans’ declared policy of obstructionism.
The president’s approval rating has risen back to about 50%, a much quicker rebound than either Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan managed following midterm defeats in Congressional elections – and both went on to win re-election comfortably.
The polls show that the president scored points, particularly among independent voters, for compromising with the outgoing Congress on extending tax cuts for the wealthy and showing he could deliver results with a burst of legislation that lifted the bar on gay people in the military and won approval of a nuclear missile treaty with Russia.
Obama’s inspiring speech in the wake of the Tucson shootings also stood in stark contrast to Sarah Palin’s self-serving attempt to justify the often violent political rhetoric on the right….
Full article here
To: Hillary Clinton <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: Chinese state visit FAQs
Hi. No, not a complaint as such – it’s just that my top-secret briefing notes from State have Bush’s scrawl marks all over them. Every time it says “Hu Jintao” he’s crossed it out and written “Huge in Tahoe”. It’s kind of distracting. Can I get a clean copy, please? I don’t want some photographer with a long lens catching me with this in my hand. B
To: George W. Bush <email@example.com> Subject: Re: if you get confused, just remember it’s pronounced “huge in Tahoe”
Thanks for that, I’ll bear it in mind. You know he left yesterday, don’t you? BHO.
To: Glenn Beck <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: thank you for finally becoming president, sir
Hey, Glenn, no problem. And thank you for taking a break from being a frothing rightwing nutcase. I guess it’s at times like these that it pays for us all to heed what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”. We both have our beliefs, and our separate jobs to do, and we should respect that. So I’ll try to stop thinking of you as an intemperate, paranoid buffoon as long as you’ll stop trying to portray me as the evil leader of a progressive international conspiracy hellbent on enslaving Americans. If you read out this email on the air, btw, I will have you vaporised, and your entire existence erased from human memory. If you don’t think I can do that, just go ahead and test me. Warmly, Barack.
From ‘All the President’s Emails’ at The Guardian
The Guardian: “I saw a piece in the New York Times claiming that the red Alexander McQueen dress Michelle Obama wore to last week’s state dinner for President Hu Jintao of China “sent out a number of signals. Fortunately, they were not mixed.” But what, precisely, were these signals?” Adam, by email
That she likes red? And she likes long dresses? And she’s fond of Alexander McQueen? Really, Adam, fashion isn’t quite as difficult to fathom as you seem to think. Or isn’t it . . . ?
Let us look at this from the perspective of someone who perceives conspiracy in the most seemingly innocent of places. I speak, of course, of Fox News’s highly imitable Glenn Beck. So give me a second while I don Beck’s famous glasses so I can see the world through his eyes.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what a terrifying world this is! Communists and Nazis beset me on all sides! And, oh my God, Michelle Obama’s dress! You know who else liked to wear red? Communists. Kill your grandparents and take your money.
And do you know who also wears long dresses? Fanatical Muslim women who want to bomb your house. And Alexander McQueen! Do you know who he was friends with? Kate Moss. And what was Kate Moss once caught doing? Taking drugs. Oh my God, the signals that dress is sending are that Michelle Obama is a communist fanatical Muslim who likes to freebase! America, save yourself!
Jonathan Freedland (UK Guardian): Throughout his presidency a doubt about Barack Obama has lingered…. the fear was that – for all his oratorical brilliance – Obama somehow lacked empathy, that he was a slightly chilly, aloof figure, that he struggled to connect emotionally.
We’ll hear much less of that talk now.
For the address he gave at last night’s memorial service was elegiac, heartfelt and deeply moving. It both rose to the moment and transcended it: after days of noise and rancour, he carved out a moment of calm.
Much of the speech was dedicated to its core function: to commemorate the dead and comfort those in mourning … in all this, he spoke less like a politician than a pastor or priest comforting a grieving community. The focus on those who had saved lives was an attempt to offer hope amid the sadness…
….This was meant to be the Republicans’ week … instead they look small – as well as defensive, fending off accusations that it was the violent rhetoric of the right that fuelled the current toxic political environment. None smaller than the de facto leader of today’s Republican party, Sarah Palin, who preceded the Tucson address with an aggressive, self-regarding and petty-minded videotaped message that claimed she had been the victim of a “blood libel”. The contrast between the two performances could not have been sharper.
Obama looks the bigger person, calling for a discourse that heals not wounds. That puts him in the place all presidents covet: above the fray, beyond mere Democrat or Republican….
But such thoughts are for later. What will be remembered today are moments like those when he told his audience that Gabrielle Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time – moments when only the most cold-hearted would not have felt a tear. What we saw from Obama in Tucson will be a defining, even cherished moment in his presidency.
Full article here
Gary Younge (UK Guardian): Jared Loughner … was not working alone. True, the rampage apparently emerged from his confused, unstable and troubled mind. But it was also the byproduct of a polarised political culture underpinned by increasingly vitriolic, violent and vituperative rhetoric and symbolism.
….To dismiss these as the voices and actions of the marginal was to miss the point and misunderstand the trend. America is more polarised under Obama than it has been in four decades: the week he was elected gun sales leapt 50% year on year.
…. many of these extreme views and much of this antagonistic tone is explicitly sustained and implicitly condoned by the Republican hierarchy. When a congressman shouts “liar” at Obama during his state of the union speech he receives a huge spike in donations…..
…In few places was the national atmosphere played out more dramatically than in the border state of Arizona. In April Raul Grijalva, in Gabrielle Giffords’s adjacent constituency, faced bomb threats for opposing a new anti-immigration law. In October, his office was daubed with swastikas and white paint….
The connection between this rhetoric and Saturday’s events are not causal but contextual. The shooter was not likely to be acting under direct instructions but in an atmosphere that made such an attack more likely rather than less. Whatever his motives, this was a targetted act of domestic political violence…
…As Giffords struggles for her life and the country mourns its dead some insist it is too soon to draw broader political conclusions from this tragedy. But if those conclusions had been understood sooner, it is possible that such a tragedy might have been prevented.
Full article here
The Guardian (UK): Paul Wellman laid his handwritten sign among the collection of candles, flowers and messages keeping vigil outside congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s office. Then he stepped back and surveyed the scene.
To the right, another sign said: “Hate speech = murder”. But Wellman went further with his angry declaration in large black letters on white cardboard: “Blame Palin. Blame the Tea Party”.
The 60-something former miner did not wait to explain why. “They’re trying to say that a lone nut was responsible for this, but Sarah Palin and the Tea Party might as well have put the gun in his hand. They are the ones who painted Giffords as some kind of traitor,” he said.
Wellman did not take much notice of the small woman with the camera watching him from the edge of the car park. After he moved off, she stepped forward.
“There have been a number of these,” she said grabbing his sign and declining to give her name. “It’s wrong. Why make it about politics?” Then she carried off Wellman’s sign to dump it….
…Some see the accused killer, Jared Loughner, as a deranged individual acting on his own. Giffords’s father was among the first to point a finger elsewhere. As he rushed to his daughter’s hospital bed, 75-year-old Spencer Giffords was asked if she had any enemies. He wept and replied: “Yeah, the whole Tea Party.”
….Republicans rushed to denounce the attack. Tea Partiers, recognising that their movement might be badly tainted, quickly portrayed the shooting as the work of a lone, unhinged misfit.
But the local sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, said he suspected that the growing vitriol, hate and anger against the government, and the widening rhetoric of armed resistance in the political discourse, played a role in the shootings. The National Jewish Democratic Council said: “Many have contributed to the building levels of vitriol in our political discourse.”
The congresswoman, the first Jewish woman elected from Arizona, was a target for Tea Party rage after she voted in favour of what Palin denounced as the president’s “socialist” healthcare reforms and opposed what many described as racist new anti-immigration laws in Arizona.
The windows of her office were stoned or shot out, and Tea Party protests were regularly held at which Giffords was denounced as a traitor to the constitution and the country.
Like other members of Congress who supported healthcare reform, Giffords faced vitriolic attacks at town hall meetings by what she would call the “crazies”. Across the country, Tea Partiers accused their elected representatives of betraying America, of being Nazis or communists for supporting Obama’s attempt to ensure that everyone has access to healthcare. With the rhetoric came the regular allusions to armed resistance.
…During last year’s elections, Giffords was among Democrats targeted on Palin’s Facebook page through the crosshairs of a rifle … she was also the target of a campaign advert by her Tea Party-backed Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly … “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly,” it said. Kelly appeared on his own website in camouflage gear, holding a gun to promote the event.
Probably unintentionally, Loughner also killed another hate figure when he opened fire at the shopping centre. John Roll was a federal judge who drew scorn and vitriol for ruling in favour of illegal immigrants in a lawsuit against an Arizona rancher in 2009. The police at the time said extremists made serious threats to kill Roll and his family, in part spurred by local talk radio hosts. US marshals put the judge and his wife under round-the-clock protection for a time.
…Dupnik said he saw a link between vicious anti-government rhetoric and the shootings ..…Not all of Giffords’s supporters agreed. As Natalie Kujawa – a Democrat who voted for Giffords – laid flowers outside the congresswoman’s office, she said that only one man was to blame for the tragedy.
“It was a mentally unstable person. It’s terrible but I think if everyone can take the higher road and conduct themselves with a little bit of grace. There’s a lot of people who are angry and I don’t think that’s going to do any of us any good.”
Kujawa laid her flowers near a sign that read: “Don’t make this about politics. Republicans and Democrats deplore this kind of hatred and violence.”
None of that mattered to a young nine-year-old boy called Sammy who arrived at the memorial carrying flowers with his father. He was there, he said, because the young girl who died, Christina-Taylor Green, had been the same age as him. Sammy said he didn’t know what to call the circumstances of her death. “It’s just very sad that anyone would shoot anyone,” he said.
Read the full article here
The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords may lead to the temporary hibernation of rightwing rage, but it is encoded in conservative DNA
Michael Tomasky (The UK Guardian): It was instructive to read elected Republicans’ official statements in response to the Gabrielle Giffords shooting for what they did not say … you’ll note that they are silent on the question of the violent rhetoric that emanates from the rightwing of American society. You don’t have to believe that alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is a card-carrying Tea Party member (he evidently is not) to see some kind of connection between that violent rhetoric and what happened in Arizona on Saturday.
…. he had political ideas … many of them (not all, but most) were right wing. He went to considerable expense and trouble to shoot a high-profile Democrat, at point-blank range right through the brain. What else does one need to know? For anyone to attempt to insist that the violent rhetoric so regularly heard in this country had no likely effect on this young man is to enshroud oneself in dishonesty and denial.
….some things will change, at least for a while. Sarah Palin will be deeply diminished by this. Speaking about the now well-known cross-hairs imagery over the map of Giffords’ congressional district on Palin’s website, Giffords herself last year expressed concern about “consequences”. Palin pooh-poohed this at the time.
Palin’s unctuous and hypocritical “prayer” for Giffords and the other victims will mollify only those who think she can do no wrong. But in general, this hastens that blessed day when we no longer have to pay attention to her self-serving lies and idiocies.
….This kind of rhetoric will go into hibernation now, but only for a bit. Because not only is it too central to rightwing mythology; it is central to Republican electoral strategy … Get people to hate liberals. Get them to think not only that liberals have ideas for the country that are wrong – get them to believe that liberals despise the country and are actively attempting to hasten its demise. Say progressivism isn’t just invalid or even dangerous, but “evil” and a “cancer,” as Glenn Beck says. Fear gets people to the ballot box.
….Today’s Republicans and conservative commentators surely understand the fire they’re playing with. But they do it, and a tragedy like Saturday’s won’t stop them, as long as they can maintain a phoney plausible deniability and as long as hate continues to pay dividends at the ballot box.
Read the full article here
….President Obama actually won useful concessions from Republicans in this deal’
The Guardian: ….it may still be true that Barack Obama folded and let the liberal base down and didn’t put up a fight. But it’s now also true, lo and behold, that the tax deal with the Republicans announced last night is far better than any Democrat could have expected.
…..the White House managed to get some meaningful Democratic priorities in there. Unemployment benefits will be extended for 13 months, longer than many had expected. That’s at a cost of around $60bn. This is one one that Republicans had to swallow hard.
To nearly everyone’s surprise, there’s a payroll tax holiday of one year for employees … and according to reports, and this is important, the social security trust fund will be held harmless … so this is not some side-door sneak assault on social security.
Finally, there’s a White House proposal from earlier this year to allow businesses to deduct 100% of new expenses for the next two years. These last three items cost money, meaning they add to the deficit, which the Republicans oppose and have filibustered and otherwise blocked, or tried to, time and again (except when something involves helping the rich, like cutting high-end tax rates and the estate tax, when GOPers don’t care about the deficit).
At any rate, they gave some ground; more than I’d expected. Some $200bn or more is going into pumping up the economy. That is stimulus. This deal is sort of a second stimulus bill … This doesn’t mean liberals will be happy.
The narrative of “weak Obama” is already set in concrete, and most people would rather be mad than pleasantly surprised….
Full article here
The Guardian (UK)