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Sep 17 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.

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Eugene Robinson: Note to Democrats: Tea Party’s not over till it’s over

Not to spoil the fun, but Democrats shouldn’t take the Republican Party’s bitter internal warfare — and the inexperienced, flaky candidates who’ve emerged from the fray — as any kind of reassurance about November. Try as it might, the GOP probably can’t defeat itself. Not this year, anyway.

I don’t mean that the battle between the Republican establishment and the take-no-prisoners Tea Party insurgency is inconsequential. When Christine O’Donnell, a Tea Party favorite, won the Senate primary in Delaware on Tuesday, my first reaction was that this one result almost guarantees that the Democratic Party’s majority in the Senate is safe.

On reflection, I think “almost guarantees” should be downgraded to something like “makes it likely.” And in moments of existential despair, I fear that she might actually win.

New York Times Editorial: Don’t Enforce ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

For almost a generation, the argument against allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military rested heavily on the claim that they would damage the morale and readiness of America’s armed forces.

A judicial opinion  last week by Virginia Phillips, a federal trial judge in California, musters compelling logic and persuasive evidence to show that the policy has done the opposite and has damaged the interests of the United States. Judge Phillips also made a strong case that the federal statute enacting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy violates the Constitution.

President Obama and leaders of the military and of Congress have repeatedly said that they are committed to ending the policy by repealing the statute. The House approved a bill doing so in May. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said he intends to bring a bill to the floor next week that would dovetail with the House measure.

Meanwhile, the prohibition remains on the books, endangering the careers of men and women in the military at a time of war. While the administration waits for Congress to repeal the statute, it should halt enforcement of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Roger Cohen: A Pope in a Schismatic Isle

Since 1534 there had been no state papal visit to Britain, a 476-year lacuna that ended Thursday with the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI. (Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit in 1982.) Seldom has a long-delayed journey been so ill-timed.

Benedict has not been received with open arms. It’s not just historical distaste for popery, or the cost to cash-strapped taxpayers, it’s far deeper. Britain would have done well to heed tradition and deny the honor of a state visit to this pope, a blunder-prone spiritual leader of rigid intellect and uncommunicative soul, too remote to heal a church in crisis.

He arrived as – after the United States, after Ireland, after the Netherlands, after Austria, after his native Germany – Belgium finds itself convulsed by a scandal over repeated sexual abuse by priests. A report released last week revealed the extent of the molestations and suggested 13 suicides had resulted from them.

It will not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the evasive response of the Vatican to the sexual abuse of minors by adult men cloaked in the authority of the Roman Catholic Church to find that Belgium’s church leader offered no direct apology.

Benedict would no doubt say he has tried to apologize for what, with exquisite awkwardness, he has called “the abuse of the little ones.” In Belgium, “little” was defined downward to include a child of two.

This year, the pope has written to victims in Ireland to express “shame and remorse” for “sinful and criminal” acts by the clergy. He also told a gathering of priests in St. Peter’s Square that the church would do “everything possible” to stop abuse. He expressed contrition again on the flight to Britain, saying the church’s “first interest” was the victims.

And yet, this man who found himself in the Hitler Youth in his teens, as required then of young Germans, and whose own conduct in handling an abuse case while archbishop of Munich and Freising has raised questions about his forthrightness – this churchman with such ample opportunity to see the darker sides of man’s soul has proved arid in comprehension and unbending in doctrine.

David Ignatius: The U.S. should test Iran’s resolve to stabilize Afghanistan

Iran is signaling that it wants to join regional efforts to stabilize Afghanistan — presenting President Obama with an interesting diplomatic opportunity. He had solicited just such help from Tehran last month, but the administration has not yet responded to the Iranian feelers.

U.S. policy is still in flux, but the administration appears ready for a limited dialogue with Iran about Afghanistan, perhaps conducted through the two countries’ embassies in Kabul. This position has not been communicated to the Iranians, in part because Washington is waiting to see whether Iran will return soon to negotiations about its nuclear program with the “P-5 plus 1” group.

The administration’s dilemma is similar to what the Bush administration faced in 2006, when it requested and then spurned Iranian help in Iraq. The worry then was the same as now — that regional cooperation might blunt U.S. pressure on the nuclear issue. Several former senior Bush administration officials now view that stutter-step in 2006 as a significant lost opportunity.

Michael Gerson: For the GOP, a bittersweet brew from the Tea Party

Following the primary season, the position of the Republican Party is strong but precarious, like a bodybuilder on a tightrope. Republicans benefit from Tea Party momentum. They suffer from Tea Party victories. As part of a political coalition, the Tea Party movement empowers. As the dominant actor, it alienates.

The problem for Republicans: They have no idea at what level the influence of the Tea Party movement will crest.

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