Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Reading

How You Can Help the victims of Hurricane Ike. CNN has compiled a list of charities throughout the region — the Caribbean, Texas, and the Gulf Coast — where you can offer support in any way you can.

Obama’s Next Move: A panel of veteran campaigners at The New Republic lend advice to Barack Obama on how to win the election.

Joe Trippi, former top strategist for John Edwards and Howard Dean:

Forget Sarah Palin. … Don’t react. Not directly. Let somebody else do that. If you’re Barack Obama, you gotta focus on McCain. And I would not use anger. It would be a big mistake for him, whether it’s righteous or not. … His persona is perfect; he’s fine.

I think they need to recognize that it will be very difficult to tie McCain to Bush. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if somebody voted with him 90 percent of the time. People may not be willing to think of McCain that way. It’s kind of like when Clinton kept saying, “I have 35 years experience, and he’s only got change.” It didn’t really move anybody. Once the Clinton people finally realized that line of attack wasn’t going to work, she started to win.

The McCain campaign seems to have figured out, by watching Clinton, that saying he has been in Washington for 26 years and has more experience isn’t going to work. So, what did they do? They picked Palin specifically so he could move the focus and the decision point in the race. It’s no longer experience versus change; it’s reform and change versus change. Now it’s up to the Obama people to adjust.

I caution everyone who’s wringing their hands, because having faced Obama and his team, I remember plenty of times when they had to make an adjustment against John Edwards or Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t like they went through the Democratic primaries without being thrown off balance every once and a while. But they would make the adjustment, get stronger, and beat us. They’ve just gotta reframe this, and I expect them to.

One last thing: the word ‘lipstick’ … stay away from that word for the rest of the campaign. Stay away from animals and stay away from lipstick. I think that’s a good idea.

Wake Up Time for “Real Conservatives” Leonard Pitts, Jr. on what has happened to the true conservatives in America.

So it seems George W. Bush is not really conservative.

Nor are Mitt Romney, John McCain and, indeed, the vast majority of the Republican Party. Or so I’m told by a number of readers who took exception to a recent column lambasting Romney for his speech at the GOP convention. In it, Romney declared that the way to fix Washington is to turn it over to conservatives. If you didn’t know any better, said I, you’d think conservatives had not been in charge most of the last decade. This kind of babblespeak, I argued, has become increasingly characteristic of the political right.

Except, according to my correspondents, those conservatives in charge weren’t really conservative at all. As Roy from Sanger, Calif. put it in an e-mail: ‘If you believe what we have had in D.C. so far this century is a conservative Washington, your perceptions are colored by a memory loss of what real conservatism looks like. Bring back to life ‘real’ conservatives who died before 1996, and they would think only one party ruled in D.C. now, the tax and spend, spend and spend some more party.”

The funny thing is, I agree. Stack the traditional definition of ”conservative” alongside the events of the last few years, and it’s hard not to. It is, for example, difficult to find evidence of government getting out of people’s way in the Terri Schiavo affair. Or evidence of lean, mean government efficiency in the Hurricane Katrina debacle. Or evidence of fiscal restraint in a projected $500 billion budget deficit. Or evidence of foreign policy pragmatism in the invasion of a country that had not attacked us and did not threaten to. Or evidence of accountability in the eagerness to duck blame for all the above.

Conservatism, an ideology once driven by principle, has shrunk until its purview can be, and often is, delineated in three syllables: God, guns, gays. Worse, it has embraced a win-at-all-costs ethos and intellectual dishonesty that are, even by the seamy standards of modern politics, astonishing.


American Muslims are often challenged to speak out against extremists in their religion, but for my money, that challenge can more fairly be leveled at those people Roy calls real conservatives. They sat silent as their principles were discarded, as their very name was stolen and used to drive the country off a cliff. I hope e-mails like Roy’s mean their long silence is about to be broken, but I have some advice for him and anyone else who doesn’t think the Republicans are truly conservative:

Don’t tell me. Tell the Republicans.

Daniel Radcliffe Grows Up: The star of the Harry Potter films walks the delicate balance between being an actor and a star.

Mr. Radcliffe, who turned 19 in July, was enjoying a much-needed break, one of the longest stretches of free time he has had since he starred in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” at the age of 12 and became the world’s best-known child actor. He was spending the time, it appeared, hanging out, obsessing about cricket and marshaling his views. He has a catholic array of deeply held opinions — on sloppy diction, on whining actors, on male competitiveness, on the changing-of-the-guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, on the spelling of “aluminum” — and in several conversations over the summer he was more than happy to disseminate them. But although he says his chatty forthrightness makes him “an intensely annoying person,” it comes across instead as an endearing sign of post-adolescent normalcy.

Mr. Radcliffe appears to be negotiating the tricky transition from child star to adult actor without falling prey to drug-addled delusion, insufferable narcissism or late-night reality television. His experience in “Equus,” which played to sellout crowds last year, has a lot to do with his confidence. Despite early grumbles that his casting was a cynical ploy, audiences loved him, and even London’s jaded critics were impressed. “This is a performance by an actor of real potential,” Michael Billington wrote in The Guardian. Quentin Letts in The Daily Mail praised “the emergence of young Dan Radcliffe in the artistic raw, tested as an actor and found equal to a stretching role.”

Mr. Radcliffe looks nothing like Harry Potter. He wears no glasses; he has no scar on his forehead. He talks rapidly, with a streetwise London accent. He is buff from “Equus”-related exercise. He is 5 foot 5, shorter than you would think (as so many actors are) but comfortable enough to joke ruefully about it. In London in June he was wearing jeans, a black T-shirt with an indeterminate artsy picture on the front and a leather biker’s jacket. He was compellingly polite.

“Equus” is a momentous play for people who came of age in the 1970s. Revelatory, even revolutionary, at the time, it now somewhat quaintly recalls that era’s debates about sanity and madness, with lengthy discussions of the virtues and limitations of therapy. Older friends had talked to Mr. Radcliffe about what the play meant to them, he said, and the role was a way to prove that he could put aside childish things without being too obvious about it.

“If I went off and did another fantasy film, everyone would say, ‘He’s not even trying,’ but if I went off and played a drug dealer, they’d say, ‘God, he’s trying way too hard,’ ” he said.

Doonesbury: Extra credit.

Opus: the beginning of the end.