Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sunday Reading

  • Straw Poll:

    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist won a much-needed victory Saturday night in the Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw poll, a win that could begin to revive his 2008 presidential prospects after a difficult year politically in 2005.

    “We are gratified at the result of a lot of hard work,” said Eric Ueland, Frist’s chief of staff. “The leader is focused on ’06 and our party is focused on a strong positive vision for ’08.”

    While the Frist victory (with 37 percent of the vote) was somewhat expected, the strong second-place finish of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (14 percent) was a bit of a surprise.

    I conducted my own straw poll: 45% preferred grass, 38% preferred hay, 10% had no opinion, and the rest were too stoned to vote.

  • David Brooks thinks Hillary Clinton was the only politician to raise a stink about the Dubai ports deal.

    Clinton didn’t seem to mind when officials of the United Arab Emirates kicked in up to a million dollars into her husband’s presidential library. She didn’t seem alarmed when Dubai poured at least $450,000 into her family bank accounts through her husband’s speaking business. She didn’t object when the Clinton administration approved a deal for a Chinese government firm to run the Port of Long Beach. But when the Dubai ports deal set off Know-Nothing mobs, she made sure she had the biggest pitchfork.

    “The White House is trying to hand over U.S. ports,” Clinton charged.

    “We cannot afford to surrender our port operations to foreign governments,” she roared.

    “We cannot cede sovereignty over critical infrastructure like our ports,” she insisted.

    All of these statements were deliberately misleading, since there was never any question of ceding sovereignty or security. They played to the rawest form of xenophobia.


    This episode — which combines buckraking with pandering — brings back the Clinton years at their worst: the me-me-me selfishness, the occasional presumption that humanity exists to serve Team Clinton.

    It also shows Clinton doesn’t understand her political weaknesses. First, nobody, not even among her friends, is totally sure she actually believes in anything, or whether she just coldly calculates political advantage. This episode reinforces that sense.


    A lot of the bitterness would not be Clinton’s fault. But over the past weeks, she has shown that far from behaving in an unorthodox manner, or flummoxing hatred, she is happy to be a crude partisan, and egg on prejudice and paranoia.

    In the short run, Clinton did the popular thing. But over the long run, people vote on character. After a rehabilitating few years, Hillary Clinton just reminded us of her ugly side.

    Brooks conveniently ignores the fact that the deal went down because the Republicans led the charge against the deal, and whatever he accuses Ms. Clinton of can be found in spades on the GOP side of the aisle. And to hear him tut-tut a Democrat for being “coldly calculating” pegs the irony meter when it comes from an acolyte of Karl Rove.

  • The family continues:

    So eagerly awaited that the term “eagerly awaited” is a ridiculous understatement, “The Sopranos” begins its sixth and reportedly final full season tonight on HBO, and advance viewing of the first four installments suggests that television’s greatest drama series has only gotten greater.


    Creator and Executive Producer David Chase has insisted that the journey of Tony, Carmela and such maddeningly mysterious new characters as Kevin Finnerty will end with those final eight chapters, no matter how loud the outcry from viewers or HBO executives. But at a glittery preview screening Tuesday night at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, dressed in a moderately mobsterly pinstripe suit, Chase looked fit and ready to keep writing. In TV, we must never say never.

    And, incredibly enough, he appears to have taken “The Sopranos” to an even higher level than it had achieved. A critic needn’t really worry about overdoing the encomiums here or raising viewer expectations too high; once you plunge into the whirlpool of the new “Sopranos,” you’ll forget what anybody said about it anyway.

    I’ll be there, right after The West Wing.

  • Quote of the day for all those people who say they have no problem with warrantless wiretapping if it will catch a terrorist. From A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt:

    William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

    Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

    William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

    Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!