«

»

Aug 30 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.

Anne Applebaum: ‘It’s too soon to tell’ how the Iraq war went

On Tuesday, Barack Obama will make a speech about Iraq. With 50,000 troops still in the country in an “advisory capacity” he can’t declare victory, so he will instead celebrate “the end of combat operations.” If he follows others who have already marked this occasion, his comments will focus on Iraq: the state of Iraqi democracy, the level of violence, the impact seven years of war has had on Iraqi society.

All of which is fair enough. But I hope he spares a few minutes to assess the impact that seven years of war has had on American society — and American foreign policy. I supported the invasion of Iraq, I think the surge was a success and I believe that an Iraqi democracy could be a revolutionary force for good in the Middle East. Yet even if violence abates, even if all American troops go home, we have still paid a very high price for our victory — much higher than we usually admit.

Aside from the very real blood and the very real money spent in Iraq, there were other casualties, some of them hard to count and classify.

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Obama needs to relearn the art of politicking

President Obama’s address to the nation on Iraq this week underscores the agony of his presidency and its core political problem.

Seen from the inside, the administration is an astonishing success. Obama has kept his principal promises and can take credit for achievements that eluded his Democratic predecessors.

He pledged to have all combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this month and, as Obama will remind us on Tuesday, he’s accomplished just that. Congress enacted a comprehensive health-care bill and a sweeping reform of how the financial system is regulated. His rescue of the American auto industry worked, foiling predictions that he’d run GM and Chrysler as if they were arms of Chicago’s Democratic machine. There are many other legislative and administrative actions that, in normal circumstances, would loom larger if these were not such exceptional — and difficult — times.

Yet the challenging nature of the moment does not explain all of the president’s struggles. It’s true that his accomplishments will have important long-term effects, even if they have not resolved the country’s central concern: the continuing sluggishness of the economy.

Glenn Greenwald: Anti-mosque sentiment rages far from Ground Zero

One of the most under-reported political stories is the increasingly vehement, nationwide movement — far from Ground Zero — to oppose new mosques and Islamic community centers.  These ugly campaigns are found across the country, in every region, and extend far beyond the warped extremists who are doing things such as “Burn a Quran Day.”  And now, from CBS News last night, we have this:

   

Fire at Tenn. Mosque Building Site Ruled Arson

   Federal officials are investigating a fire that started overnight at the site of a new Islamic center in a Nashville suburb.

   Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson. . . .

   The chair of the center’s planning committee, Essim Fathy, said he drove to the site at around 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning after he was contacted by the sheriff’s department.

   “Our people and community are so worried of what else can happen,” said Fathy. “They are so scared” . . .

   Opponents of a new Islamic center say they believe the mosque will be more than a place of prayer; they are afraid the 15-acre site that was once farmland will be turned into a terrorist training ground for Muslim militants bent on overthrowing the U.S. government.

   “They are not a religion. They are a political, militaristic group,” Bob Shelton, a 76-year-old retiree who lives in the area, told The Associated Press.

Dahlia Lithwick: The Female Factor

Will the presence of three women really change the court in any real way?

Much has been made of the fact that Elena Kagan’s confirmation last month means that for the first time in American history, there will be three women on the high court. But beyond a sense that the court will be slightly more representative of the American people, and the possibility of yet more intriguing white lacy scarves from on high, what does the difference between having one, two, or three women at the court really signify?

Harry Shearer: President Obama Speaks to New Orleans From Planet Zarg

NEW ORLEANS–Sorry, can’t be sure that’s the planet he’s living on, but this intelligent, well-informed man surely can’t be living on this orb. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to start off his speech at Xavier University Sunday afternoon with this reprise of his town-hall remarks here last October:

“It was a natural disaster but also a manmade catastrophe; a shameful breakdown in government that left countless men, women, and children abandoned and alone.”

Note that the “manmade catastrophe” and “breakdown” are linked only to the response to the flooding of New Orleans, not the cause, as if this intelligent, well-informed man is unaware that two separate, independent forensic engineering investigations of the disaster, conducted over a period of a year or more, agreed on this conclusion (in the words of UC Berkeley’s ILIT report): the flooding of New Orleans was “the greatest man-made engineering catastrophe since Chernobyl”.

Joan Walsh: Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin’s unholy alliance

Abramoff ally Rabbi Daniel Lapin and bigot John Hagee help “restore honor” at the Lincoln Memorial

Where to begin telling the story of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin’s “Restoring Honor” rally, on the site of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I have a dream” speech exactly 47 years later? As promised, we published Sarah Palin’s 8/28 speech alongside King’s, and Mark Benjamin reported from the event. I’m excited Beck announced his “Black Robe Regiment”; it’s long past time to retire the white robes.

Since Beck insists the gathering wasn’t about politics, but about religion, let’s take a look at a couple of the religious figures there.