Morning Report, August 31st: Obama’s Quagmire, Black Models, Picking Fights at Tea Parties, A Ridge Too Far, Stressed by ‘Stress Positions,’ the Deterioration of Journalism, Tutu’s No-No, and King Kennedy
One Christian’s perspective on the day’s news:
1. August was a terrible month for the Obama presidency–according to Rasmussen, his approval rating is down to 46%, another new low–and September looks no less challenging. Along with tough situations regarding health care, Afghanistan, Iraq, Obama had set a September 15th deadline for the Iranians to respond to his call for negotiations designed to end the threat of a nuclear Iran. While Obama is highly unlikely to achieve any significant victory on that score, one wonders whether the Obama team will be so desperate for positive press that they will bend over backward to get some sort of overture from Iran, so they can claim that their more concessionary diplomacy is working.
2. Assessing the TARP program is going to prove difficult. It was urged by the Bush administration, accepted as necessary by the Democratic leadership and supported at the time by many Republicans and Democrats alike (including both Presidential candidates). It appears to be turning a profit on its loans, but the final outcome will not be known for years. And it has been implemented quite differently by the Bush and Obama administrations. Bush was careful to preserve a good chunk of the money for the Obama administration to use it in the way it saw fit as the circumstances continued to unfold. I think most people agree that the TARP helped keep the economic system afloat, and thus Bush deserves credit. To that extent the TARP has worked. The cost is yet to be tabulated, however, and the effects of using the TARP money to manipulate the companies; I am not pleased that the United States government has become a major stakeholder in our central financial institutions.
3. Naomi Campbell complains that advertisers, in the recession, are not hiring black women. It’s easy to dismiss this. Perhaps Campbell is just being the little girl who thinks all her friends have it easier; or perhaps she’s like a fan who thinks her team is getting all the bad calls. Probably so. And it’s hard to feel sorry for a woman who has made millions upon millions of dollars and become a worldwide celebrity for standing around in skimpy outfits, walking in straight lines, and throwing blunt objects at those around her.
Yet others in the story agree with her, and it raises an interesting question. Imagine that you have to advertise to a community that is 80% white; imagine, too, that the dominant paradigm in that setting is of white beauty. You only have enough money for one commercial; you lack the funds to change social mores, or do a series of commercials that includes all different colors of models. So what do you do? All other things being equal, the sound financial decision is to employ a white model, is it not? Now imagine that that great majority of those around you are also finding their advertising budgets pinched, and are also using white models. Is there anything wrong with this? There is nothing, to my mind, racist about that decision, just as there is nothing racist about a company in a predominantly black community using black models.
What percentage is the “right” percentage of black models? Should it reflect the composition of the community? Roughly 65% of the United States (at least in 2007) is non-Hispanic white; 15.1 percent are Hispanic; 12.8% are black and 4.6% are Asian or Pacific Islander. So should these be the numbers we shoot for–or does this turn everything into a quota system, rather than a system where merit is rewarded regardless of ethnicity? Should the proportion of minority models simply reflect the needs of the business? Blacks get a great deal of attention when it comes to righting the wrongs of racism, understandably, because of the history of African slavery and the need to compensate for the devastating effects of slavery and prejudice on black communities. But what about Hispanics, or Asians? If the racial/ethnic composition of the populace is the baseline, Hispanic models should be seen in greater numbers than blacks, right?
4. Another step in the decomposition of the American body politic. Those who oppose health care reform, often locked out of town hall meetings with their representatives, have begun to hold their own “tea party” meetings. In this case, someone who favors the Democrats’ version of health care reform walked in and shouted over the speakers. He threw an elbow into the head of a man beside him. Watch the news video. I agree with Ed Morrisey at Hot Air:
I’m not surprised that this man, someone named Chavez, started throwing punches, although his contention that it was “one white, angry mob in there” has to be the hypocritical quote of the day. What I did find surprising is the reaction of his victim. He had the immediate presence of mind to grab the man who charged Chavez and pull him away rather than let the event get marred with violence from the Tea Party side. Instead, the police took Chavez out of the hall. KGUN should have put him on camera instead of the thug who threw the elbow.
5. What a profile in courage. Tom Ridge, having waited 12 days and benefited from the publicity surrounding his publisher’s claim that he was pressured to raise the alert level for electoral reasons, now finally speaks and says it isn’t true. I had always liked Ridge, but I have to agree that he has “exposed himself as a weasel.”
6. You had to know this was coming. The New York Times editorial board, having so long hoped and prayed for a bipartisan solution on health care reform, now reluctantly accepts that the Democrats should use the reconciliation process, in which they would only need 51 votes, to pass whatever bill they finally cobble together. But it’s the Republicans’ fault. Many Republicans “seem bent on scuttling President Obama’s signature domestic issue no matter the cost.” Of course. And “Mr. Obama should know from sad experience the pitfalls of seeking bipartisan cooperation from a Republican Party that has sloughed off most of its moderates and is dominated by its right wing. His stimulus package was supported by no Republicans in the House and only three Republicans in the Senate, so-called moderates whose support was won by shrinking the package below the size at which it would have done the most good.”
This is like a parent weighing the immediate benefits of purchasing ice cream against the long term detriment when the credit card bill arrives. The ice cream is good, but the children say, “We could have spent more money and gotten more ice cream, and that would have been an even greater good.” First of all, there’s no clear evidence that the stimulus, as opposed to TARP and creative moves from the Fed, has helped ease the Great Recession. Second, the bill has not yet come due. Increasing government deficit spending, by definition, increases the amount of money pumped into the system and gives a jolt to the economy in that sense. But the long term bill has not yet come due; the concern of increasing debt and rising interest rates could well lead us into a second recession. There’s no way, even for the New York Times, to know how to balance the ledger just yet. More Republicans would have supported the stimulus if it had been front-loaded with spending on truly needed infrastructure, and had given more money into the private sector for small businesses; instead if was back-loaded with money that would be shelled out to Democratic interest groups and constituencies, including unions and government workers, that could vote for Democrats in 2010 and 2012. If the New York Times likes the effect of the stimulus so far, they should chastise the Obama administration for not putting more of the spending up front.
7. Is it un-Christian of me that I really don’t care that some of the world’s worst terrorists, who killed or sought to kill hundreds and even thousands of innocent men, women and children, were put in “stress positions” that kept them awake for days? The fact that this and waterboarding are the worst they receive (at least when the prison guards were acting as they were told) seems remarkable in itself. How many other nations in the history of humankind would take a person like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who masterminded the plan that killed 3000 Americans, and bend over backwards to make sure that he was not physically harmed as we extracted information that we needed in order to save the lives of thousands more?
8. It’s not earth-shattering news that Lt. Gen Russell Honore, who rescued the Katrina disaster response from the disastrous response of FEMA, says that he is, contrary to rumors, not considering a primary run against Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter, a first-term senator who was caught in a sex scandal. But what I enjoy is this little tidbit:
A Louisiana political Web site reported last week that he was “seriously considering” a Republican primary challenge to Vitter, a first-term Republican who was ensnared in a Washington sex scandal in 2007. Honore said he had received more than 100 e-mails in response to that report, but no news outlet asked him whether it was true before CNN contacted him Sunday.
“That ought to scare the hell out of people in this country,” said Honore, who once called a reporter “stuck on stupid” during a nationally televised news conference.
He’s right. Those in the journalism business are struggling to understand why newspapers and the business in general are doing so poorly. They need look no further. When reporters don’t bother to make a simple call or write a simple note to check whether a rumor is true, the line between reporters and random bloggers is non-existent. In fact, the bloggers are probably better, since at least some exercise critical judgment.
9. The nail in the coffin for the Gordon Brown administration in Britain? It appears the Lockerbie bomber really was set free for oil. The problem is not only releasing a convicted mass-murdering terrorist; the problem is the thoroughgoing dishonesty of the process throughout. How did they think they would get away with this?
10. How could an “Elder” like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose role in overturning Apartheid is legendary, say something so callous as this? He told Ha’aretz, the liberal Israeli newspaper: “The lesson that Israel must learn from the Holocaust is that it can never get security through fences, walls and guns.” It’s dumbfounding to me. How could he possibly think that this is a good thing to say? See the report from the Elders (a massive collective ego trip if I ever saw one) website here.
11. Jay Newton-Small kept a running account of the Kennedy funeral events. This may be his last entry, and it paints a rather nice picture. Meanwhile, conservatives who swore they would hold their tongues could not stomach all the hagiographies. Mark Steyn, in his inimitable way, explains why, at least in part. Jonah Goldberg also explains why (as I said earlier) Ted Kennedy would be happy to have his death exploited on behalf of health care reform. I had not known that, after JFK was killed, Jacqueline had lamented Oswald’s inconvenient political position: “It had to be some silly little Communist.” It would have been better if history remembered him as a martyr for standing up for the little guy. Well, the Kennedy myth machine quickly took care of that. Ask people why JFK was killed today, and you’re likely to hear that it’s because he stood up for civil rights or etc. JFK would, in fact, have found little with which to agree in Ted Kennedy’s politics. The New York Post talks about why Kennedy really should not be a hero to those who care about the treatment of women (and it’s not just about Mary Jo; it’s about the rampant womanizing, the beer-addled sexual harassment, the destruction of the woman whom his nephew apparently date-raped, not to mention his cruel treatment of his ex-wife).
It’s true that Teddy is being thoroughly air-brushed, and Mary Jo is still being left in the car, and the Kennedy myth-making machine is back in operation. But a more balanced assessment of Teddy’s legacy can follow well enough later.
10. Column of the Day. George Will is always such a pleasure to read.