America is a strong supporter of democracy worldwide. Except, of course, when we aren't. That piece of doublethink has been at the center of American foreign policy pretty much since World War II, and it is the heart of the conundrum we now find ourselves in regards to what is happening in Egypt and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Because we're conceptually all in favor of democracy -- right up until the "wrong" person or group wins an election. According to our definition of "wrong," of course. This is the key drawback to democracy (and American support of democracy in the rest of the world) -- sometimes the "wrong" people win.
Archive of Articles for January, 2011
But for now, let's take a quick look back at the week that was, and then spend the rest of the column examining the "narrative" of Obama's speech.
OK, it's going to a be a quick and disjointed column today, because I have to get tomorrow's Friday column done early tonight. So we return to the "three-dot column" format pioneered by the intrepid Herb Caen of San Francisco newspaper fame (who also famously coined the term "beatnik," by the way...). Today, we've got two Sputnik footnotes, a Sarah Palin chuckle, and a quick note on Obama's "ask the president a question on YouTube" session. Without further ado...
The day after President Obama's big yearly speech to Congress and the American people, most pundits and talking-head types in the media are vying to outdo each other on stating "what it all means" or similar high-flown overanalysis. What many of them seem to have missed, however, is the fact that Obama used his speech to introduce a few topics into the political debate. Some of these topics have been around for a while, championed by various people and groups, but what seems newsworthy to me is the fact that Obama included them in his list of proposals for the future.
I'd have to sum up my immediate reaction to tonight's State Of The Union speech with the old Monty Python line: ".... and now, for something completely different ..."
Well, it's that time of year again. The time of year when pundits across the land helpfully (oh, so helpfully) offer the president advice on what he should say in his "State Of The Union" speech tomorrow. While I've engaged in this sort of thing before, this year I'd like to make predictions of what President Obama will say tomorrow night (as opposed to what I would like him to say). Which means I'm not endorsing any of this personally, merely attempting to predict what will be in tomorrow night's speech in advance.
With some regularity, this column excoriates the mainstream news media for all sorts of continued idiocy in the way it conducts its business. But every once in a while, we have to applaud them when they get something right. This week, Dana Milbank of The Washington Post deserves mentioning, for pledging to stay Palin-free for the month of February. Details on this in a moment.
[Program Note: Two years ago today, President Barack Hussein Obama was sworn into office. Today, I was busy running errands and didn't have a chance to write anything, but two years ago I was on the National Mall trying not to freeze my extremities off, to witness this historic moment. So I thought I'd run the column I managed to write after the event as well as all the photographs I took while attending Inauguration Day. If you'd like, you can search my January, 2009 archives page to read all the columns I wrote about the highs and lows of Inauguration Week two years ago. I realize I could have marked the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech today, but I've already printed two speech transcripts in the past week, so I thought I'd take this route instead, to mark the halfway point of Barack Obama's first term in office.]
The House of Representatives, as expected, just voted to repeal the landmark healthcare law which President Obama signed less than a year ago. This vote was a symbolic victory for Republicans, but not any sort of substantial change. To truly repeal the law, the Senate would have to also pass the bill the House just passed, and then both houses would have to muster a two-thirds majority vote to overcome Obama's veto. None of which is going to happen. Democrats still control the Senate, and Harry Reid has all but pronounced the bill "dead on arrival" in his chamber, meaning that today's House vote is the only victory (and a symbolic one, at that) Republicans should expect in their mad dash to repeal healthcare reform.
Senator Joe Lieberman will announce tomorrow (from all reports) that he will not be seeking another term in the Senate. Democrats across the land are collectively heaving a large sigh of relief at the news. "So long, Joe," seems to be the prevailing sentiment, although if you listen closely you can hear the muttered "... don't let the door hit you on the way out," or other less-than-endearing sentiments.