Aug 19 2010

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Robert Reich: Mitt Romney’s Wet-Noodle Economics

Mitt Romney is smart enough not to join Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin in using the proposed mosque at Ground Zero to launch a presidential bid. While Gingrich is busy comparing Muslims to Nazis (“Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the holocaust museum in Washington”), and Palin is calling on New Yorkers to “refudiate” the plan (she subsequently corrected her word choice), Romney is offering an economic plan.

That’s a wise choice. Mitt knows Americans don’t care about mosques in Manhattan. They care about money in their own mitts.

Romney is intent on selling himself to America as the businessman who can turn the country around (sad to say, unemployment is likely to remain high all the way through November, 2012). Unlike Palin and Gingrich, Romney did, after all, run a business (yes, it was a firm that bought and sold companies and laid off lots of people along the way but, hey, that’s business).

Mitt Romney: Grow jobs and shrink government

IT’S NOT happening the way President Obama had planned. Unemployment blew past his 8 percent ceiling and hasn’t looked back. Private sector investment in new jobs and capital has languished. Even the head of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, has resigned.

Almost every action the president has taken has deepened and lengthened the downturn. The private sector has retreated, frightened by his agenda and paralyzed by the uncertainty, lack of predictability, and outright hostility he has engendered.

His policies are anti-investment, anti-jobs, and anti-growth. Raising taxes – with a 15 percent hike on certain small business corporations, new taxes to pay for ObamaCare, and an increase on the dividend tax from 15 percent to nearly 40 percent – depresses new investment throughout the economy. Promoting an open-ended cap-and-trade tax dissuades expansion by employers in the energy sector. Bowing to the demands of unions to tilt the table in their favor – with proposals for card check and mandatory arbitration as well as the installation of a labor stooge at the National Labor Relations Board – chills new hiring.

Dana Milbank: Religious tolerance, then and now

“To bigotry no sanction.”

George Washington

“Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.”

Sarah Palin

Two hundred twenty years ago today, the Jews of Newport, R.I., wrote a proclamation for President George Washington on his visit to their synagogue the next day.

“Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens,” the Jews wrote to their famous visitor, we now “behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People . . . generously affording to All liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language, equal parts of the great governmental Machine.”

Washington’s reply the next day, a simple letter titled “To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport,” set a standard for religious tolerance that guided the nation through two centuries. Here is that message in its entirety — along with some alternative thoughts on the topic occasioned by the proposed mosque near Ground Zero:


While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, from all classes of Citizens.

“There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over. . . . Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington.”

— Newt Gingrich

Robert Sheer: Ground Zero for Tolerance

Are the Republicans terminally stupid or are they just playing the dangerous fool? In either case, the irrational attack on Muslims everywhere by the GOP’s leadership is not only deeply subversive with regard to the American ideal of religious tolerance, but also poses a profound threat to our national security. Nor does it help that some top Democrats like Harry Reid are willing to demean Muslims even as we fight two wars in which victory depends on our ability to convey a respect for their religion.

Just ask Gen. David Petraeus, who is leading the war without end to win the hearts and minds of Muslims in Afghanistan, how helpful it is to the Taliban for American politicians to identify all Muslims with terrorism. Or to the theocratic leaders of Iran who justify their hard line with the insistence that the U.S. is obsessively anti-Muslim.

Demonization of the Muslim religion is what this brouhaha is all about. Talk of the sensitivity of the victims of 9/11, ignoring those who were Muslim, is just camouflage. It is as absurd as it would be to blame all religious Jews for the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, killed by one gunman from a fanatical Jewish fringe group, or to ban the erection of an Orthodox synagogue anywhere near Rabin’s grave. As irrational an act of scapegoating as blaming all ethnic Germans for the acts of Nazis, many of whom claimed to be God-fearing Christians.

Joan Walsh: Sarah Palin defends Dr. Laura

The “mama grizzly” backs the right-wing radio moralizer who trashed her as a bad mother

On the same day Sarah Palin trashed the “cackle of rads” who “hijacked feminism,” she also came to the defense of a staunch anti-feminist, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, on Twitter.

Early Wednesday Palin attempted to declare herself a feminist, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of women’s suffrage. She tweeted: “Who hijacked term:”feminist”?A cackle of rads who want 2 crucify other women w/whom they disagree on a singular issue; it’s ironic (& passé)”

But about five hours later, she embraced the defiantly anti-feminist Schlessinger, tweeting, “Dr.Laura:don’t retreat…reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence ‘isn’t American,not fair’)” Then she added, “Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!”

Digression: It’s scary to think we just had a vice presidential nominee who doesn’t understand the Constitution, who thinks Schlessinger’s First Amendment rights “ceased 2exist” because she was criticized for haranguing a black woman who called for advice, using the word “nigger” 11 times. Again, Gov. Palin, the First Amendment protects us from government infringing on our speech rights; it doesn’t take away other Americans’ right to criticize.

Joe Conason: Why do conservatives pretend “racism is dead”?

When James Taranto whitewashes right-wing bigotry, what is he telling us about his movement – and himself?

It’s a shame to arrive late at a party, especially if you’re the designated piñata. But last Friday, when WSJ.com’s James Taranto tried to  take down my New York Observer column, titled “The Racists Return,” I had more pressing priorities.

What got the Journal blogger so wound up (along with others in the wingersphere) was my assertion that bigoted language uttered by the likes of Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham has been echoed in racist “games” targeting President Obama on the Jersey Shore and in the Lehigh Valley this summer. What irked him even more was my suggestion that conservatives should at last repudiate such ugliness rather than encourage it.

Responding to those observations, Taranto accused me of misconstruing satire, tearing phrases from context, yearning for the ’60s and, worst of all, lacking a sense of humor. No doubt he is among the most formidable wits on the right, but we just don’t share the same idea of funny. Unlike him, for instance, I wasn’t amused by the right-wing smear of Shirley Sherrod.

Of course, Taranto’s fervent denial of racial undercurrents on the right today exemplifies the problem that I urged conservatives to address.

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