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This category contains 18 posts

Forward Unto Zion.

Particularly in the younger generations, fewer and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists; fewer and fewer American Jewish Zionists are liberal. One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster — indeed, have actively opposed — a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.

Making the rounds this week, and making a break from his former boss Marty Peretz, former TNR editor Peter Beinart laments the “failure [re: conservatizing] of the American Jewish establishment.” (See also the follow-up interview.) An interesting piece, but Beinart — who, by the way, is wrong often — seems to have neglected to mention the very welcome formation of J Steet. They seem to be way ahead of him on this.

Rosen: Stop me before I blog again!

“How absurd is that? Let us count the ways. First, even when the most establishment ‘journalists’ such as Rosen get caught engaging in patently irresponsible behavior, they still find a way to blame blogs rather than themselves (I thought I was just blogging, and reckless gossip is what bloggers do.) It wasn’t blogs that “reported” Saddam Hussein’s acquisition of scary aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons or that Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks; it wasn’t blogs that glorified Jessica Lynch’s nonexistent heroic firefight with Iraqi goons; it wasn’t blogs that turned John Edwards into The Breck Girl and John Kerry into a “French-looking” weakling; and it wasn’t blogs that presented retired military generals who were participating in a Pentagon propaganda program and saddled with countless undisclosed conflicts as ‘independent analysts.’

Call it the State of Play fallacy: After TNR’s Jeffrey Rosen blames “blogging” for the obviously poor quality of his recent Sotomayor hit piece — and vows never to blog again — Salon‘s inimitable Glenn Greenwald sets the record straight about what can and can’t be pinned on bloggers. “Despite his efforts to blame ‘blogging’ for what he did, Rosen didn’t use journalistically reckless methods to smear Sotomayor’s intellect because of some inherent attribute of the medium. Instead, he did that because…that’s how the establishment media typically functions: ‘background reporting from people with various axes to grind, i.e. standard Washington reporting.’” (And, for what it’s worth, Rosen’s original article was hardly what you’d call blogging anyway — it was just a lengthy piece that ran online.)

The Constitution Made Whole.

“Not one lawyer in 100 can identify Ohio congressman John Bingham as the main drafter of the 14th Amendment. Yet Bingham is a fascinating historical figure: he served in Congress in the 1850s as the country was torn apart and in the 1860s as it was stitched back together. He was a federal judge and the nation’s minister to Japan. As a prosecutor, he convicted John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators, and as a member of Congress he gave closing arguments in President Andrew Johnson impeachment trial. All that, plus he drafted Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which is perhaps the single most important paragraph of our Constitution.” Over at TNR, Doug Kendall pleas with Obama and others to remember the Reconstruction amendments.

The Money Pit.

Hillary Clinton ended January with $7.6 million in debt – not including the $5 million personal loan she gave to her campaign in the run-up to the critical Super Tuesday elections, according to financial reports released Wednesday.” With the January FEC reports filed, Politico takes a look at the sinking fiscal ship that is the Clinton campaign. The key graphs: “According to the reports, Clinton raised about $20 million in January, including her loan. She spent nearly $29 million during the month. She reported a cash balance of $29 million. But more than $20 million of that is money dedicated to the general election. Her personal loan accounts for more than half of the remaining approximately $9 million, leaving just about $4 million in cash raised from donors. But even that money is illusionary when measured against the reported $7.6 million in debts.” So add that all up and you get: no money. (Hence, the fatcat 527.) But the silver lining for Sen. Clinton? At least she’s making interest on that loan.

Over at TNR, Christopher Orr emphasizes this finding from the piece: “More than $2 million of the red ink is owed to chief consultant and adviser, Mark Penn.” So that goes a long way toward explaining why he’s still employed over there these days, despite his obvious incompetence.

And a commenter in the same TNR thread teases out another key line buried in the article: “[T]he lengthy laundry list of IOUs also includes unpaid bills ranging from insurance coverage, phone banking, printing and catering at events in Iowa, New Hampshire and California.” Wait a tic: Sen. Clinton, she of the much-touted mandate, is now ducking the insurance bills? Hmm…maybe affordability is the real problem after all.

Update: Politico‘s Kenneth Vogel has more on where the money went, including $10 million to Mark Penn and $1300 to Dunkin Donuts.

Update 2: The NYT piles on the terrible financing issue: “Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s latest campaign finance report, published Wednesday night, appeared even to her most stalwart supporters and donors to be a road map of her political and management failings…’We didn’t raise all of this money to keep paying consultants who have pursued basically the wrong strategy for a year now,’ said a prominent New York donor. ‘So much about her campaign needs to change — but it may be too late.‘”

Vicki don’t lose that number.

Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers. A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

Remember the hubbub back in December over a spiked NYT story about John McCain and some lobbyist shenanigans? Well, it finally dropped, and it involves possible favorable treatment for — and a possible romance with — a young female telecom lobbyist, Vicki Iseman (who, it must be said, looks eerily like Cindy McCain.) “In interviews, the two former associates said they joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that he was risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman.” So there’s definitely smoke, but is there fire? This story doesn’t quite stick the landing on either the romance (both parties deny it, although they did seem to spend some time together) or the lobbyist favors (it does mention McCain urging the FCC in 1999 (before my time there) to back an Iseman client, Paxson Communications, at her request, and it rehashes McCain’s involvement with the Keating 5.) But perhaps there’s more to the story? If there isn’t, I don’t really see this having legs. Update: The WP follows up with their own version, which notes that Iseman used to tout her McCain connections to other lobbyists. Still no smoking gun, tho’.

Update: The McCain campaign has responded here, calling the piece a “hit and run smear campaign.” (This response, however, sidesteps the question of a possible affair. For what it’s worth, McCain has admitted to extramarital affairs during his first marriage. And, while he voted to convict Bill Clinton during the impeachment fiasco, he also said then that “I do not desire to sit in judgement of the President’s private misconduct. It is truly a matter for him and his family to resolve…I have done things in my private life that I am not proud of. I suspect many of us have.“)

Update 2: It looks like release of the NYT piece was prompted by a TNR story about the Grey Lady holding back, which [Updated] came out today. (Apparently, other news outlets have been chasing the story too.) In the meantime, we can content ourselves with a better documented, albeit less sexy, McCain scandal, namely his obvious gaming of the public financing system: “What we know is that McCain found a way to use the public funds as an insurance policy: If he did poorly, he would use public funds to pay off his loans. If he did well, he would have the advantage of unlimited spending. There’s a reason no one’s ever done anything like this. It makes a travesty of the choice inherent in voluntary public financing, between public funds and unlimited spending…Legal or not, it should bring to an end whatever tiny thread of credibility John McCain still has as a straight-talker or reformer of the political process.

Coming In from the Cold (War).

“[F]or all their practical failures, conservatives have at least told a coherent political story, with deep historical roots, about what keeps America safe and what makes it great. Liberals, by contrast, have offered adjectives drawn from focus groups and policy proposals linked by no larger theme.” In keeping with the intellectual territory he staked out after the 2004 election, former TNR editor Peter Beinart makes the case for a return to Cold War liberalism in a NYT excerpt of his new book, The Good Fight (also discussed in the recent Atlantic Monthly.)

I couldn’t agree more with Beinart’s paragraph above, but I don’t think the lack of a sufficiently robust national security emphasis is really the defining element missing among today’s Dems. Are there really Democrats out there who don’t agree with Beinart’s three main assessments here, that (a) America faces a real enemy in Al Qaeda and other fundamentalist terror networks, (b) our foreign policy should be less hubristic and more attuned to both local contingency and international institutions, and (c) our national sense of self should emphasize our own fallibility at times? Beinart would probably target the MoveOn crowd, but as Eric Alterman noted in the last round of this back-and-forth, that’s just a DLC straw man, roughly akin to Joe Klein’s cadre of phantom lefty consultants in the last update.

Plus, I think there are two significant historical problems with the Cold War liberalism Beinart unreservedly espouses, which he fails to discuss here. For one, Cold War liberals could very easily be seen as best inattentive to and — at worst complicit in — the excesses of McCarthyism. If the enemy abroad becomes the central defining focus of your national narrative, then the enemy within is undoubtedly going to start eating at you as well. For another, (and as John Gaddis, among others, has pointed out) — for all its early sense of diplomatic complexity and limited, realistic goals — the Cold War liberalism Beinart promotes all too readily (d)evolved into the guiding rationale for wildly wrongheaded foreign policy interventions, most notably in Vietnam. (You’d think Beinart would pay more lip service to this issue, particularly as he himself made much the same mistake in shilling for the Iraq war in The New Republic.)

In short, I agree with Beinart’s assessment that the Dems lack a sense of usable past, but the problems with his argument can be encapsulated by his ideal of a what a good, hawkish, Cold War liberal Democrat should look like these days: That, if Beinart’s tenure at TNR is any indication, would be Joe Lieberman, a politician who’s not only been flagrantly cheerleading for the administration during the current war, but has exhibited little interest in today’s wartime civil liberties issues. Simply put, Joe Lieberman would hardly be my choice of template for the Democratic party. (Who would? That’s easy: Russ Feingold, who’s displayed a strong commitment to preserving both national security and civil liberties at home, while arguing for a more level-headed, less-in-your-face American foreign policy.)

Foer the Republic.

Congrats to DC friend Franklin Foer, who was recently named to replace Peter Beinart at TNR. My advice to him would be much the same as Jack Shafer’s: “The New Republic needs revival, but Foer can’t hope to revive it by pleasing [owner Marty] Peretz.” With a long and illustrious history ranging back to Herbert Croly and Walters Lippmann and Weyl, TNR should be a flagship of progressivism, and so much more than just the “Joe Lieberman Weekly.” Godspeed, Frank.

Skull & Bones to Skill & Brains..

Via a friend and colleague in the program, Alan Brinkley examines the demise of the old-boy-network in Ivy League admissions for The New Republic.

The Bitter Fruits of Defeat.

Following up on a Franklin Foer TNR article I first saw over at Value Judgement, Hannah Rosin examines the plight of DC’s Deaniacs now that the party’s over. Although it wasn’t nearly as well reported, I remember a similar purge happening after Bill Bradley went down last cycle, and, trust me, they can get ugly. (But, at least last time, all was forgiven after Al Gore screwed up the general.)

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