Friday, December 19, 2008

Speaking of people I like...

Christopher Hitchens' column over at Slate is a winner, as well.

As Barack Obama is gradually learning, his job is to be the president of all Americans at all times. If he likes, he can oppose the idea of marriage for Americans who are homosexual. That's a policy question on which people may and will disagree. However, the man he has chosen to deliver his inaugural invocation is a relentless clerical businessman who raises money on the proposition that certain Americans—non-Christians, the wrong kind of Christians, homosexuals, nonbelievers—are of less worth and littler virtue than his own lovely flock of redeemed and salvaged and paid-up donors.

This quite simply cannot stand. Is it possible that Obama did not know the ideological background of his latest pastor? The thought seems plausible when one recalls the way in which he tolerated the odious Jeremiah Wright. Or is it possible that he does know the background of racism and superstition and sectarianism but thinks (as with Wright) that it might be politically useful in attracting a certain constituency? Either of these choices is pretty awful to contemplate.

I've read several different explanations of how this is actually shrewd politics, a healing gesture, whatever. No, it isn't. Wrong messenger, wrong message. By an amazing coincidence, once again it's the gays being told to keep a lid on it, never mind the symbolism, we all have to put aside our personal issues and come together in unity and all that... but how come no one else has to do much adjusting?

Is this really just a cynical move? Do something to get the gays in an uproar, to gain credit for being a centrist who's willing to anger his base? A Sister Souljah moment? I can believe there was some of that present. I can't believe the Obama team fully expected the depth of the reaction, because they misjudged the depth of the hurt in the gay community. Having your civil rights put up for a vote, and taken away, to the tune of vile, hateful rhetoric, can do that. And inviting a major fundraiser who spewed more than his share of that bile to give the invocation, and thus implicit's simply too much. It goes too far. Marc Ambinder's wrong about this, by at least half. And Andrew Sullivan is obviously seeing something I'm not; the "earnestness and sincerity of his campaign" are belied by the hamhandedness (or blatant cynicism) of this invitation.

As I told a friend of mine: I knew Obama would disappoint me. It's inevitable; every winning politician must, inevitably, disappoint his or her supporters. I just thought he'd be in office before it happened.

I know, I know. He's a politician, from Chicago. I never bought into the walks-on-water enthusiasm of some. But I thought he was a cut above the typical politician.

I'm not so sure now.

Why I [heart] Glenn Greenwald

His spot-on column today about how Obama's "new politics" is actually the same old politics, and how poorly it's worked in the past.

Go read it, it's good.

It's the end of the world as we know it....

In another sign of the impending Apocalypse, I find myself in agreement with Charles Krauthammer, at least on the Caroline-for-Senate thing.

If Princess Caroline wants a seat in the Senate, let her do it by election. There's one in 2010. To do it now by appointment on the basis of bloodline is an offense to the most minimal republicanism. Every state in the union is entitled to representation in the Senate. Camelot is not a state.

Oh, well, never mind, then.

Kathleen Parker has a vaguely-unhinged column up at today's Post explaining that questioning Caroline Kennedy's qualifications for the Senate is reasonable, but there's a simple reason why those who oppose her on those grounds have got their facts wrong. You see, unlike those who opposed Palin on the grounds that she was "anointed--cynically selected without proper vetting", Caroline Kennedy would only be a Senator, would only be one person among 100, and would have to stand for election (eventually) anyway.

The thing of it is, Parker clearly understands, at least on an intellectual level, the argument against appointing Kennedy:

The real rub is that she hasn't earned it. The sense of entitlement implicit in Kennedy's plea for appointment mocks our national narrative. We honor rags-to-riches, but riches-to-riches animates our revolutionary spirit.

Palin paid her own passage unfreighted by privilege. But I and others opposed her spot on the Republican ticket for good reasons, some of which resemble concerns now aimed at Kennedy.

To wit: It isn't enough to want the prize. One must be up to the job, in a league with one's fellow actors.

Excellent summary! Couldn't have said it better. So what could possibly outweigh this argument?
In Kennedy's case, those actors would be senators, not heads of other, potentially belligerent, nations. If appointed, she would be a single vote among 100 and otherwise a placeholder until 2010, when she would have to run for election as any other.
Oh, well, in that case, it's okay, I suppose. After all, she can't launch nukes, so why shouldn't she have it, just because she wants it?

Hey, I have an even better idea. Since a Senate seat is no big deal, a House seat, where you're one person in 435 and have to stand for election every two years, must be next to nothing. If someone in a prominent family decides they'd like one, why don't we just let them have it? After all, you can't launch nukes or anything. And in fact, we could simply say that certain families have first dibs on the seat. We could pass them down through multiple generations! Won't that be exciting! Think about the fairy-tale endings we could put on our media narratives! And we could give those families special titles to show they're part of the aristocracy! Oh, wait, there's that little matter of the Constitution. Well, the last eight years have shown that it's mostly just suggested guidelines that don't really need to be taken seriously anyway.

Sorry. But simply being a Kennedy and deciding she wants to be Senator aren't enough. For Palin to rise to the Governorship in spite of her apparent lack of qualifications says a lot about her political chops and her determination, if nothing else. If Kennedy wants the seat, let her campaign for it.

Would Hillary have won if she weren't Mrs. Bill Clinton? Probably not. But she still campaigned. She met with voters, she pressed the flesh, ate the ethnic food and pretended to like it, the whole thing. Why should Caroline Kennedy have the seat for even two years, and the benefit of incumbency in the upcoming election, simply because she wants it? If there were a track record of elective office, of something beyond boards and fundraisers, it wouldn't reek so much. And if a prominent socialite not part of the Kennedy clan were interested in the seat, they wouldn't be getting this much serious consideration.

Of course, I'm not a resident of New York, so my opinion matters somewhere between diddly and squat. I don't know where Kathleen Parker lives. But to whatever degree she's trying to influence opinion, including the opinions of those who do matter on this question, her reasoning is shallow, waving away with an airy la-de-da some very real concerns about the corrosive effects of dynastic politics. For someone who tries to consider herself a conservative, she doesn't seem to understand basic political theory all that much.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What's the price going to be?

John A. cites anonymous but allegedly inside sources that the decision to invite Rick Warren came from Obama himself, that this wasn't from Feinstein or a staffer. Assume for the moment that's true.

Part of why Obama's felt free to disregard the left is that they gave him their support cheaply. As Congressional Democrats have demonstrated repeatedly, when there's no penalty, no price to be paid, for disregarding your concerns.... your concerns get disregarded a whole lot.

So. What's the price going to be? What sort of concession is going to be demanded? Early action on DADT? Federal recognition of state-level domestic partnerships? It should be something more than just some speechifyin'. He wouldn't have to devote his entire first term to LGBT issues--the Inauguration invocation, while a big deal, isn't an earth-shaker--but there has to be something.

And if he isn't held to it, made to pay a price for going out of his way to insult a constituency--then that constituency has no one and nothing but itself to blame.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This is ridiculous.

Every winning candidate must sooner or later disappoint his supporters. It's inevitable.

Backing the idea of Joe Lieberman staying in the Democratic Caucus was annoying. But Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inaugural? WTF?

The election is over. I thought Obama's appearance at the Saddleback forum, unhealthy for democracy as it was, was an unfortunate example of a candidate doing what had to be done to win. But this is outrageous. The reasons are laid out very well by Joe at AmericaBlog, John at AmericaBlog, at Pam's, by Mark Kleiman over at RBC. I don't have much to add to what they've said.

We've heard oodles and oodles about how Obama's transition team is the savviest political team ever assembled. I can therefore only assume that this was deliberate. Has Obama made a calculated decision that the support of the LGBT community is not needed, that its loss will be more than offset by the uniting picture of a popular right-winger at the Inauguration?

Well, he's a politician. And he won the election. That means he gets to make such decisions.

But I don't have to like it. And I don't.

Most of his cabinet appointments have been good, and I don't share the general amazement that he's picking a team of centrists and relative insiders. That's pretty much the platform he campaigned on. But Rick Warren isn't centrist. He's Dobson with better PR. And putting him up on the podium sends a very clear message.

Message received, Barack. Loud and clear.