Bill Kristol in Time magazine on how this election could be (should be?) RFK Jr. (aka Obama) versus Reagan Jr. (Fred Thompson).
It’s pure Kristol—interesting analogy, well argued and written–and mostly wrong I think.
The Democrats’ situation is different. For them, recent history does not feature a grand triumph (Reagan) preceded and followed by mixed results (Nixon and the Bushes)–a narrative that yields the hope of reliving the moment of success. The modern Democrats are more a party of tragedy than of triumph: John F. Kennedy assassinated; Lyndon Johnson’s presidency wrecked on the shoals of the Great Society and Vietnam; electoral defeats in the ’70s and ’80s interrupted only by the (failed) Carter Administration; Clinton’s victories in the ’90s accompanied by the Republican takeover of Congress. And at the heart of the Democrats’ quasi-tragic account, at the very center of the wistful might-have-been-but-wasn’t-quite-to-be narrative, is the leader who was cut down before he had the chance fully to lead: Robert Kennedy.
On Reagan and Republicanism as a narrative of triumph.
1.Both Democrats and Republicans share credit for the Cold War. Though in different forms (rollback Rep., containment Dems) there was a shared foreign vision from Truman through Nixon, Carter, and Reagan.
2.The Soviet Empire collapsed at least as equally if not more due to its own inherent weight. It was a shame, which is why it fell so quickly. Reagan it could be argued knew when to push, but without a Gorbachev it never happens. Nor would Reagan have ever been elected if the Iranian Hostage Crisis had not taken place. He was losing in the final week to Carter–Carter not exactly the greatest of presidents ever mind you.
3.Kristol recall is a neoconservative and when Reagan was busy “destroying” the Soviet empire, Kristol was busy creating the fantasy that the entire evil world order was controlled by Moscow. Kristol mentions this because for he has now changed his story to the evil world Islamic empire that is threatening all Western civilization—as sinisterly, if not more, as centrally co-ordinated as was the Soviet threat. Hence one man’s true heroism (Reagan) alone brought down that evil empire. Hence also Kristol’s backing of George W. Bush, who he even now must admit is no Reagan. Now Fred Thompson? Looks like straw pulling. Does Kristol really believe this or is this another “noble lie” neo-cons (via Strauss) are pulling….is he falling for it himself. I just can’t get this Fred Thompson thing.
4.Not mentioned is any dark side to Reagan. Those could include any of the following:
–Right wing death squads funded and trained by the US military and security establishments rampaging through Central/Latin America, killing civilians, nuns and priests.
–The 80s Junk Bond Scandals, lack of oversight of Wall Street
–The stripping of the social safety net and the massive rise of crack in the ghettos
–Anti-gay AIDS hysteria and his administration’s hardline stance on the issue.
On the Democratic side, while I generally agree with the downward slope issue, Kristol wants to jump over the achievements of the Clinton years. Peace and prosperity. Kristol correctly points out Clinton left the White House with his Party in worse shape in Congress and state-wide across the country. Not to mention one of the key issues of that decade was not the Republican takeover of Congress–usually things work when the President and Congress are from different parties….Reagan in the 80s, Clinton in the 90s–but the insane and shooting your own foot impeachment trial over Lewinsky.
In other words, another narrative could be the stupidity of the Republican party and its increasingly destructive connection with social conservatives. As well as the Democratic Party’s downfall through alliance with out of touch left-wing policies. Hence, the narrative might better be each party fails when it gets too extreme in either direction.
The Republicans to my mind would do better to have a much more nuanced vision of their own legacy. I think George HW Bush is underrated, Reagan overrated, and Nixon though a crook on some many fronts, with Kissinger, the man who has charted the course for the 21st century by going to China (something neocon Kristol loathes. hence his negative image of Tricky Dick). I guess that doesn’t make for a good bumper sticker nor op-ed piece though. Every Republican candidate trying to convince the voters that he is the re-incarnation/disciple of Reagan is in my mind what is actually holding the Republicans back. See Giuliani hanging out with Steve Forbes this week.
Instead of the Reagan image, if the Republicans followed the Schwarzenneger model they would destroy Hillary.
Still while everyone has compared Obama to JFK, the RFK comparison is an interesting one.
Obama is, like Kennedy, a charismatic freshman Senator, running before his time but–supporters think–uniquely suited to the time. Obama follows Kennedy in being a bold liberal and a skeptic of simple ideological stances, a gifted politician and an antipolitician, a man familiar with the halls of power yet a charismatic critic of them.
In the whole pro/con debate over the word Christianism, I’ve never seen anyone reference what seems to me a more fruitful (and obvious) method.
The Christianist trend, to the degree that it exists–and I think there is some but nothing anywhere near the Andrew Sullivan argued levels–has influence at state and local levels. Not on federal levels. The Terri Schiavo case showed the over-extension and the major hit the Republicans (see Bill Frist) as a result.
The Republican corruption, power play and traditional conservative critiques of the Republican (power corrupts, absolutely) would apply on the federal level. That individuals stripped from local contexts/knowledge, unaccountable, and sinful by nature led to hubris. Pride goes before the fall.
The surge is inching closer to the brink of collapse. In the last week 600 were killed, the government looks even more (if this is possible) unable to stop the violence. Condi’s vague Middle East plan looks dead in the water. The waters of the Persian Gulf that is.
And now this on Moqtada al-Sadr:
Religious leaders commanded by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr delivered a searing speech at Friday Prayer condemning the American presence in Iraq, while militiamen loyal to Mr. Sadr engaged in street battles against Iraqi Army soldiers in southwestern Baghdad, signaling a possible resurgence of the militia. Mr. Sadr has ordered the Mahdi Army, the militia he controls, to lie low during the early days of the new Baghdad security plan so as not to provoke a direct confrontation with the Americans. With the speech on Friday, which the religious leaders attributed to Mr. Sadr, it appeared that he was continuing to walk a tightrope, not openly defying American and Iraqi government attempts to secure the capital, but still sharply criticizing the United States presence in Iraq.
Sadr has shrewdly called for a massive nonviolent street protest against the American occupation on April 9th, 4th anniversary of the war. Expect Sunni insurgents to target civilians–how easy it will be to get a suicide bomber in the crowd. I’m very worried about this development. The Shia are so close to rising up en masse once more, and this time no going back.
Hamas, the dominant faction in the Palestinian government, is building its military capacity in the Gaza Strip, constructing tunnels and underground bunkers and smuggling in ground-to-air missiles and military-grade explosives, senior Israeli officials say.
Training via Hezbollah and possibly Iran. Moreover,
The strengthening of Hamas and its consolidation of power in Gaza, reflected politically in Fatah’s decision to join Hamas as a junior partner in a coalition government, is a prime reason that Mr. Olmert is resisting a push from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to talk seriously to the Palestinians about the substance of a peace treaty with Israel.
The continuing empowerment of Hamas is also behind Mr. Olmert’s reluctance to embrace the Arab League peace initiative reconfirmed Thursday at its summit meeting. Israelis may want peace in principle, but they are very reluctant to give up more territory in the occupied West Bank, as they have done in Gaza, to a Palestinian Authority dominated by a group unwilling to recognize Israel’s right to exist or to forswear the use of violence.
The heterogenities of the Muslim Brotherhoods—many more than one.
A very good article on the history of the Brotherhood via RealClearPolitics. Not without criticisms, but overall echoes a view I find crucial. Some form of “moderate” Islamism is the only way forward in the Sunni world. It will be no doubt anti-American, and anti-Israeli to some degree or other. What is to be expected after the way the West (French, British, Americans, and Israelis) have treated the region and its citizens? But anti-American doesn’t automatically equate with more planes into more US buildings. Russia’s foreign policy is anti-American because American/EU and NATO since the fall of the Wall have been built to a large extent to keep Russia out of influence. But we aren’t at war with Russia.
Similarly, US policy during the realism phase was to support dictators (Shah of Iran, Saudi Royals, even early support for Hussein) to exert pressure and open up oil lanes. Current US policy–in the failure of the democratic revolutions and Iraqi post-war conflict–seems to be without a vision or maybe simply to keep the arena as broken as possible. I really don’t know.
As long as the only other choice are autocrats the re-entrenchment of which is in full flower right now—Hosni Mubarak following in the great lines of Egyptian Pharaohs is trying to pass power onto his son–then the response will be greater and greater lethality and radicalization outflanking groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood recall, for all their problems, publicly denounced the 9/11 attacks and al-Qaeda was formed in large part as a militant reaction against Muslim Brotherhood–thinking the Brotherhood was too weak for its promotion of democracy.
Now of course Khamenei is moving closer to Ahmad. Leaving me with that the question of whether Bush has wanted war this whole time. Certainly many in his administration have, and I know Bush did have them targeted, but I thought events might force something out of him. Now I’m worried.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia declined a White House invitation and publicly stated the US occupation in Iraq is illegal and that the government of Iraq is a Shia sectarian force. King Abdullah of Jordan, a major US ally, has similarly had to decline a White House invitation–he can’t afford to be seen in public with our president who is beyond radioactive.
And now a this brinkmanship with Iran…..
As many as 50 people were killed in what appeared to be reprisal attacks in Tal Afar after a double suicide-vehicle bombing there on Tuesday killed 85 people and wounded 150, Iraqi officials and a witness said today. Armed attacks broke out against Sunnis in the Sunni neighborhood of Al Wahda, with Shiite Iraqi security forces suspected of taking part, they said.
Tal Afar recall was last year hailed as proof of the new clear, clean, and hold strategy. Reprisal killings mean Shia death squads, infiltrated through police/army units.
Word is out that Barry McCaffrey, retired Army General and pro-surge advocate has written a memo based on his recent trip to Iraq. Story here from Tom Ricks, Wapo. McCaffery does mention some positive outcomes of the surge and some small reasons for possible optimism, but overall it is very downbeat.
“The population is in despair,” retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey wrote in an eight-page document compiled in his capacity as a professor at West Point. “Life in many of the urban areas is now desperate.”
The government lacks dominance in every province, he added. One result is that “no Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO [nongovernmental organization], nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi, without heavily armed protection.” Militias and armed bands are “in some ways more capable of independent operations” than the Iraqi army, he added.
I’m not sure “some ways” as a qualifier is correct/necessary.
From the NyTimes:
The mass extinction that wiped out dinosaurs and other life 65 million years ago apparently did not, contrary to conventional wisdom, immediately clear the way for the rise of today’s mammals. In fact, the ancestral branches of most mammals, including primates, rodents and hoofed animals, emerged long before the global extinction and survived it more or less intact. But it was not until at least 10 million to 15 million years afterward that the lineages of living mammals began to flourish in number and diversity.