"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Conservative Politicians Insult All Of France”: Another Case Where Both Sides Don’t Do It

American conservatives wasted no time last night in using the recent terrorist atrocities as a vehicle for their own political agendas. In today’s partisan climate that was sadly to be expected.

But several prominent conservatives went so far in their posturing on guns that they managed to insult France and its people in such a way that it engendered an immediate and forceful backlash.

First came Newt Gingrich, who curiously for a conservative Republican suggested that some random number of death metal enthusiasts rock concert attendees be armed and packing:

This led to France 24’s Marc Owen public calling out Newt Gingrich on air with the following:

“So he’s using this atrocity to make his point that people should be able to carry guns basically,” Owen said. “It’s funny how people will very distastefully use this kind of situation to express their own particular political [inaudible]. Newt Gingrich, shame on you.”

Also interestingly, an older Donald Trump tweet from this January made after Charlie Hebdo attack to insult France and its gun laws resurfaced tonight after the French ambassador to the United States apparently mistook it for a reaction to tonight’s news:

The French ambassador has since deleted his own outraged tweet, but the fact remains that Trump did tweet this after Charlie Hebdo and has not apologized for it.

Mother Jones has compiled a list of other outrageous and insensitive statements by prominent conservative figures about the attack, from Judith Miller to Congressman Jeff Duncan to former Congressman Joe Walsh.

The Gingrich and Trump comments are reminiscent of former Texas governor Rick Perry’s statement that America needs more guns in dark, crowded movie theaters. Not only is insinuating that gun control policy is responsible for the deaths in Paris outrageously insensitive, it’s also beyond stupid. The notion that in an environment of darkness and chaos at a death metal concert, an assemblage of random citizens with pistols would have created a less deadly environment when faced with trained terrorists with Kalashnikovs and explosive vests is simply ludicrous. Above and beyond that, of course, is the fact that America’s permissive gun policies lead to a staggering gun death toll that is exponentially bigger than even dozens of terrorist attacks like the one we just saw in Paris.

But none of this fazes the Republican frontrunner for the Presidency and the former GOP Speaker of the House. While earlier this year or last night, they evidently believe it’s not only advisable to promote their destructive views on guns, but to do so in direct response to a terrorist tragedy overseas with significant diplomatic consequences.

You just won’t find anything parallel to this on the American left. The worst example from the left might be by Wikileaks, but even then that’s 1) not an American organization, and 2) was roundly called for being asinine by people of all political stripes, including even the Anonymous twitter account.

In this as in so much else, both sides do not in fact do it. The American Right has truly unilaterally gone off the rails, and last night’s response to the massacre in France is just another example of that.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, November 13, 2015

November 15, 2015 Posted by | Charlie Hebdo, Conservatives, Donald Trump, France Terrorist Attacks | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Lack Of Confidence In The American Project”: Sorry, Donald Trump; America Needs Birthright Citizenship

Conservatives usually believe in American exceptionalism, and in upholding the Constitution. Which is why it’s strange to see so much conservative ebullience over Donald Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship.

It’s not news that there are a significant number of Americans who are anxious about immigration — illegal and otherwise — and that they exert considerable political clout (though ultimately less than is sometimes breathlessly suggested). And many of those people fret about so-called “anchor babies.” The problem with “anchor babies” is that they’re a myth. (Trust me. As a Frenchman with a fertile wife who often wanted to emigrate to the U.S., I did the research.)

This fight therefore nicely serves to highlight the fact that most (though not all) fears related to immigration belong more to the realm of fantasy than reality.

But it also illustrates something else: how the restrictionist position is all too often born of a lack of confidence in the American project.

After all, the two are inseparable. Birthright citizenship says, quite explicitly, “The American project is so strong, our culture is so strong, our values are so strong, that any baby born on our soil, no matter where his parents come from, will ultimately grow up to be a well-adjusted American, so that we don’t need to wait for him to prove himself to extend citizenship.”

In contrast, the movement to end birthright citizenship says, essentially, “Nope, sorry, that’s not true. We can’t do it. We can’t do it anymore.”

Which, again, goes to highlight the tension between extreme restrictionism in immigration and conservative values. Conservatives typically display above average, not below average, confidence in the American project and in the capacity of judicious applications of American patriotism to solve problems.

There’s another funny intersection between birthright citizenship and the conservative worldview, and I have an unusual window into it. As I said, I’m a Frenchman. France and the United States are unusual in both being nations explicitly founded (or refounded) on Enlightenment values. And one trait they share is that they both instituted birthright citizenship.

One reason was the Enlightenment-driven belief, over and against the feudalism that prevailed in most places in Europe, that citizenship depended on a social contract, not a bloodline, and that your parentage should not therefore change your citizenship status.

But there was another reason (and here lies an entire critique of the Enlightenment, which is a whole ‘nother can of worms), a reason we’re not too comfortable with today: empire. The institution of birthright citizenship in France was enacted by France’s revolutionary government and ratified by Napoleon’s civil code, partly so citizens could be pressed into duty in the army. As France expanded, so did its citizenship rolls, as did its citizen army, as did its military might, all in a virtuous cycle (virtuous, at least, from Napoleon’s perspective).

The U.S. enacted birthright citizenship for different reasons, to ensure the citizenship of freed slaves after the Civil War. But the point is that birthright citizenship is historically associated with confidence in the national project, perhaps even supreme confidence.

Oh, and how did it do in France? Well, we got scared of immigrants, so we got rid of birthright citizenship piecemeal over the past few decades.

So here’s the other odd thing about the birthright citizenship debate: American conservatives saying they want to be more like France. Kudos!


By: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week, August 24, 2015

August 26, 2015 Posted by | American Exceptionalism, Birthright Citizenship, Donald Trump | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Same Priorities She’s Emphasizing Now”: What Hillary Said About Paid Leave, Child Care, Inequality — Yesterday And 20 Years Ago

Following Hillary Clinton’s first major campaign speech on Saturday, purveyors of conventional wisdom have assured us again that she is tacking toward the left to deflect her challengers and mollify her party’s liberal base. Such assertions usually hint that Clinton is not progressive herself, but merely swayed that way by polls and consultants.

On the evening before her big event in Four Freedoms Park, New York’s memorial to its favorite son, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I picked up a copy of her 1996 bestseller, It Takes A Village. (While many journalists once thumbed through it, few seem to remember its contents.) Published during an era when the nation showed few signs of turning leftward, Clinton’s first book offered pithy arguments for the same priorities she is emphasizing now. Consider the views she expressed on family leave — and, in particular, the limitations of the law signed by her husband in 1993:

As I have mentioned, the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees unpaid leave to employees in firms with more than fifty workers. That is a good beginning. Many parents, however, cannot afford to forgo pay for even a few weeks, and very few employers in America offer paid maternity and paternity leave….

Other countries have figured out that honoring the family by giving it adequate time for caregiving is not only right for the family and smart for society but good for employers, who reap the benefits of workers’ increased loyalty and peace of mind. The Germans, for example, guarantee working mothers fourteen weeks’ maternity leave (six weeks before and eight weeks after delivery) at full salary…

Other European countries provide similarly generous leave, some of them to fathers as well as mothers. In Sweden, for example, couples receive fifteen months of job-guaranteed, paid leave to share between them…

As First Lady, Clinton obviously was in no position to demand that her husband’s administration (or the Republican-dominated Congress) institute paid family leave, but her own opinion was clear enough. So was her view of early childhood education, another current issue that she highlighted on Saturday:

Imagine a country in which nearly all children between the ages of three and five attend preschool in sparkling classrooms, with teachers recruited and trained as child care professionals. Imagine a country that conceives of child care as a program to “welcome” children into the larger community and “awaken” their potential for learning and growing.

It may sound too good to be true, but it’s not….More than 90 percent of French children between ages three and five attend free or inexpensive preschools called écoles maternelles…

While I was in France, I had conversations with a number of political leaders, from Socialists to Conservatives. “How,” I asked, “can you transcend your political differences and come to an agreement on the issue of government-subsidized child care?” One after another of them looked at me in astonishment. “How can you not invest in children and expect to have a healthy country?” was the reply I heard over and over again.

Finally, Clinton drew sharp attention to the social instabilities of the post-industrial American economy and the role of government in redressing what she called a “crisis.” Observing that “long-established expectations about doing business have given way under the pressures of the modern economy,” she warned bluntly:

Too many companies, especially large ones, are driven more and more narrowly by the need to ensure that investors get good quarterly returns and to justify executives’ high salaries. Too often, this means that they view most employees as costs, not investments, and that they expend less and less concern on job training, employee profit sharing, family-friendly policies…or even fair pay raises that share with workers – not to mention their families and communities – gains from productivity and profits…

Despite record profits for many companies, the gap in income between top executives and the average worker has widened dramatically….This growing inequality of incomes has serious implications for our children.

She went on to again praise Germany, where “there is a general consensus that government and business should play a role in evening out inequities in the free market system” — and where higher base wages, universal health care, and superb job training guaranteed “a distribution of income that is not so skewed as ours is.”

Writing 20 years ago, when President Clinton was running for re-election against the odds, Hillary hedged her message — and yet she was prescient in addressing the harms of an increasingly unfair economy. What she said then undergirds what she is still saying, more and more forcefully, in this campaign.


By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, June 15, 2015

June 16, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Economic Inequality, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Serious People Discount Fox News”: What The European Response Tells Us About Ourselves For This Garbage

Tucker Carlson said on Fox that more children die of bathtub drownings than of accidental shootings. They don’t.

Steve Doocy said on Fox that NASA scientists faked data to make the case for global warming. They didn’t.

Rudy Giuliani said on Fox that President Obama has issued propaganda asking everybody to “hate the police.” He hasn’t.

John Stossel said on Fox that there is “no good data” proving secondhand cigarette smoke kills nonsmokers. There is.

So maybe you can see why serious people — a category excluding those who rely upon it for news and information — do not take Fox, well … seriously, why they dub it Pox News and Fakes News, to name two of the printable variations. Fox is, after all, the network of death panels, terrorist fist jabs, birtherism, anchor babies, victory mosques, wars on Christmas and Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. It’s not just that it is the chief global distributor of unfact and untruth but that it distributes unfact and untruth with a bluster, an arrogance, a gonad-grabbing swagger, that implicitly and intentionally dares you to believe fact and truth matter.

Many of us have gotten used to this. We don’t even bother to protest Fox being Fox. Might as well protest a sewer for stinking.

But the French and the British, being French and British, see it differently. And that’s what produced the scenario that recently floored many of us.

There was Fox, doing what Fox does, in this case hosting one Steve Emerson, a supposed expert on Islamic extremist terrorism, who spoke about so-called “no go” zones in Europe — i.e., areas of Germany, Sweden, France and Great Britain — where non-Muslims are banned, the government has no control and sharia law is in effect. Naturally, Fox did not question this outrageous assertion — in fact, it repeated it throughout the week — and most of us, long ago benumbed by the network’s serial mendacities, did not challenge Fox.

Then, there erupted from Europe the jarring sound of a continent laughing. British Prime Minister David Cameron called Emerson an “idiot.” A French program in the mold of The Daily Show sent correspondents — in helmets! — to interview people peaceably sipping coffee in the no-go zones. Twitter went medieval on Fox’s backside. And the mayor of Paris threatened to sue.

Last week, Fox did something Fox almost never does. It apologized. Indeed, it apologized profusely, multiple times, on air.

The most important takeaway here is not the admittedly startling news that Fox, contrary to all indications, is capable of shame. Rather, it is what the European response tells us about ourselves and our waning capacity for moral indignation with this sort of garbage.

It’s amazing, the things you can get used to, that can come to seem normal. In America, it has come to seem normal that a major news organization functions as the propaganda arm of an extremist political ideology, that it spews a constant stream of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, paranoia and manufactured outrage, and that it does so with brazen disregard for what is factual, what is right, what is fair, what is balanced — virtues that are supposed to be the sine qua non of anything calling itself a newsroom.

If you live with aberrance long enough, you can forget it’s aberrance. You can forget that facts matter, that logic is important, that science is critical, that he who speaks claptrap loudly still speaks claptrap — and that claptrap has no place in reasoned and informed debate. Sometimes, it takes someone from outside to hold up a mirror and allow you to see more clearly what you have grown accustomed to.

This is what the French and the British did for America last week.

For that, Fox owed them an apology. But serious people owe them thanks.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 26, 2015

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Europe, Fox News, Journalism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“He Must Not Merely Lose, He Must Be Humiliated”: If Mitt Romney Insists On Running For President, Then He Needs To Be Trounced

The main reason democracy works is not the ballot box. It is accountability.

Humans are weak and prone to corruption, and one problem with authoritarian regimes is that there is no mechanism for holding people accountable when corruption inevitably occurs. In a democracy, there is. It’s far from perfect, but in the long run accountability leads to democratic countries being more prosperous, peaceful, and powerful. Just look at the rampant corruption and pollution in China, or Russia’s slide into fascism.

The ballot box is just a mechanism for accountability. I suspect that the U.S. would more or less achieve the same results if it had a computer that replaced one clique of megalomaniacal Ivy League graduates with another clique of megalomaniacal Ivy League graduates every time GDP growth and unemployment hit a certain number — this is essentially what the ballot box does.

Accountability is a different phenomenon. If you have the ballot box without a culture of accountability, you get Iraq’s chaos or Hugo Chavez’s bread lines. Only culture generates and sustains accountability — the rules of the game are the product of a culture that is willing to enforce them. Such a culture creates secular saints like John Profumo, who, after resigning from the British government over a sex scandal, didn’t join a private equity firm, but instead spent years mopping toilets at a charity.

All of which brings us to Willard Mitt Romney.

In the political realm, you want a culture that says you can only be a major party’s presidential nominee once (unless you win the presidency, of course). Why? Because. Because it allows new blood to emerge. Because otherwise you risk becoming a place like France, where the same politicians have been playing musical chairs for decades. Both Jacques Chirac and François Mitterrand ran for president twice on a major party ticket before being elected to the top job, and the country would have been better off if their parties had held them accountable instead. Party machines run like feudal systems, doing everything to protect the Boss, including tolerating a culture of corruption. Healthy political parties realize that the cemeteries are full of indispensable men and rotate their troops.

This means that if Mitt Romney is to run for president, which it increasingly looks like he will do, he must not merely lose — he must be humiliated. This is not only because he would be a terrible standard bearer for the GOP (although that’s certainly true), but also because an example must be made of him. He must suffer a defeat so stinging that it will deter anyone else who might try that trick in the future.

Romney’s candidacy is clearly an exercise in self-delusion. For the GOP to nominate a painfully wooden private-equity baron — at a time when its biggest problem is its image as the party of rich white men — was excusable the first time; a second time, it would be a joke. No American would take the party seriously. And if Romney thinks talking about poverty — an issue on which no mainstream journalist would give him the benefit of the doubt — will change his public perception, he clearly has departed from reality. Even without the accountability aspect, a Romney candidacy would be a disaster.

I personally find it impossible not to have sympathy for Mitt Romney, the man. But there seems to be two Romneys. There’s “Mitt,” the fair-dealing businessman, the talented technocratic governor, the Christian man deeply involved in his church, the devoted husband and father. And then there is “Candidate Romney,” a man who seems to be so consumed by his self-regard, his unshakeable faith in his own world-historical significance, that he is willing to say anything, and do anything, to reach the highest office in the land. The question was always which one would end up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue if elected. But now it is moot.

What was most endearing about Mitt Romney was what seemed like a genuine, basic human decency. But this selfsame decency should have told him that, no matter how great a president he thinks he would be, he could not run again, for the good of his party and country. Since he seemingly does not understand this, the country must make him understand.


By: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week, January 15, 2015



January 16, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Mitt Romney, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: