While the rest of Washington—and the country—wonders if Elena Kagan would work for good or for evil as a Supreme Court justice, The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Robin Givhan has other things on her mind.
Whether Kagan leans left or right in her judicial demeanor is for court observers to debate. But in matters of style, she is unabashedly conservative.
Like, say, every other Supreme Court nominee?
The other men and women who have gone through this process have not been daring in their wardrobe choices either.
So why waste valuable real estate on the pages of the fifth-largest newspaper in the country to discuss how Kagan “put on rouge and lipstick for the formal White House announcement of her nomination,” but otherwise “embraced dowdy”? We even get the critical information that she wore “sheer black hosiery” at the press conference. It’s not as if those column inches couldn’t be filled with more in-depth reporting and analysis of more important stories. I searched in vain yesterday for a skeptical piece on Obama’s National Security Strategy.
And Givhan had actually already written this piece before—when Sonia Sotomayor was going through her confirmation hearings for the court. The two lawyers embraced the same Washington Woman style: black skirts and black pumps with jackets in either black again or in bright, simple colors (with that sheer black pantyhose on which Givhan is so fixated).
Givhan seems continually frustrated that she can’t judge Sotomayor’s and Kagan’s fitness for one of the most important jobs in the land simply by looking at their labels. In the new piece, she says in the passive voice that “[a]ll hints of personality were deftly extracted” from Sotomayor’s person, while she complained in the earlier piece that Sotomayor’s attire “offered no hints of personality” and “expressed little personality.”
How many high-powered government lawyers do communicate their individuality through their clothing? Kagan is not interviewing for a job in a creative field—as much as some might see interpreting the constitution as such. But Givhan, who was stuck moving to dreary Washington from the more fashionable New York when her beat expanded to cover the first lady, wants to see this city transformed.
Kagan’s version of middle-age seems stuck in a time warp, back when 50-something did not mean Kim Cattrall or Sharon Stone, “Cougar Town” or “Sex and the City.”
The thought of Kagan, Sotomayor, or—heaven forbid—Ruth Bader Ginsburg dressing 20 to 30 years younger than their actual ages gives me a shudder. But I suppose none of us knows exactly what they’ve got on under those black robes. (As the just-released Sex and the City 2 suggests, Muslim women wearing black burqas just might be rocking Vuitton and Valentino under there. That diaphanous film, in which the foursome take on Abu Dhabi, did a better job of connecting fashion and politics than the first clothes critic to win the Pulitzer Prize ever has. Sure, the criticism might not be on the highest level here. Carrie sees that even women’s mouths are covered in some Muslim attire. “It’s like they don’t want them to have a voice,” she muses as she watches a woman eating French fries, lifting her burqa up slightly to taste each one. But what other part of our popular culture is addressing the clash of civilizations? And as you can imagine, if you know anything about the HBO series that spawned the film series, there is certainly a clash here.)
Perhaps the strangest part of Givhan’s piece is her description of how Kagan sits.
She walked with authority and stood up straight during her visits to the Hill, but once seated and settled during audiences with senators, she didn’t bother maintaining an image of poised perfection. She sat hunched over. She sat with her legs ajar.
This is, at least, the only creative observation of the article. I don’t think I’ve heard that description of slightly open legs before. Even funnier is the caption to the picture of Kagan talking to a senator that accompanies the piece:
UNUSUAL: Most women, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, cross their legs when sitting, but not Kagan.
Weird woman! She doesn’t cross her legs! What does this say about her sexuality—and her suitability for the court?
Oddly enough, Kagan is “hunched over,” while in the previous piece Sotomayor “slouched.” But that wasn’t a bad thing to Givhan then.
The jackets had plenty of buttons so they didn’t gap if she slouched — and really, who could sit with ballerina posture during all that mind-numbing questioning and non-answering?
Maybe that’s why Givhan is so uninterested in questions of substance. They’re “mind-numbing.”
It might be facetious to point out the inconsistency here. It must be hard to write a second piece about another legal career woman who’s a dull dresser so soon. And it’s not as if Givhan is coherent in her calls for a more glamorous political class. I wrote a piece a while back about her snarky view of Carla Bruni, the woman now married to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Writing then, she complained about Bruni’s beauty.
Models already get the star athletes. The bookish debate-team captain should get the prime minister.
She didn’t approach Carla Bruni on the substance, either—Bruni is an enormously talented singer-songwriter who had a successful career after she modeled and before she met Sarkozy. It seems women can’t win with Robin Givhan. They either dress too plainly or too elegantly. In neither case does Givhan consider the context—something intelligent women do every day when they get dressed for work.
The dumbest tweet of the day comes from ABC’s Jake Tapper, commenting on Ron Paul being one of five Republicans who voted to lift the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military:
“Anyone having trouble reconciling Rep. Ron Paul’s vote to repeal DADT with that scene in Borat?”
Tapper means “Bruno,” the film in which Sacha Baron-Cohen’s gay caricature lures Paul into a hotel bedroom and drops his trousers in front of the him, eliciting an entirely warranted reaction of shock and alarm. (“That guy is queerer than the blazes, he took his clothes off, let’s get going.”) To anyone else that would seem like a restrained response to an ugly situation; but in Tapper’s head, it evidently betokens some animus against homosexuals in general. I won’t speculate on what someone caught in circumstances like that must have to do pass Tapper’s tolerance test.
When does a political deal become a bribe?
At the 1952 Republican National Convention, California’s favorite son, Gov. Earl Warren, released his delegation reportedly in return for Ike’s promise that he would give Warren the first open seat on the Supreme Court.
In September 1953, Chief Justice Fred Vinson dropped dead of a heart attack. As they say, the rest is history.
In 1824, Andrew Jackson won a plurality of both the popular and electoral votes, but not a majority. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams came in second; Speaker of the House Henry Clay fourth.
Between Jackson and Clay, however, there was a great hate. When Gen. Jackson had gone rogue in Florida, hanging two British subjects for aiding renegade Indians and packing the Spanish governor onto a boat to Havana, almost igniting war with Spain and Britain, Clay had charged Jackson with Caesarism.
The general told friends that when Congress adjourned, he was going to challenge Clay to a duel and kill the speaker of the House.
With no majority in the Electoral College, the contest went to the House. There, Speaker Clay persuaded supporters to back Adams, who emerged with a 13-7 victory among state congressional delegations.
Jackson’s supporters were doubly enraged when Adams named as his secretary of state — stepping stone to the presidency for Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Adams himself — Henry Clay.
“Corrupt bargain!” went the cry. No investigation was held, but a disgusted nation would give Jackson two terms as president and deny Clay his life’s ambition in all three of his runs.
At his death in 1845, Jackson reportedly told friends he had but two regrets — that he had not “hanged (John) Calhoun and shot Clay.”
Which brings us to Rep. Joe Sestak’s claim that he was offered an administration job if he would abandon his race against Sen. Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania. Reportedly, the job offered to the retired admiral was secretary of the navy. Read More…
Wow, I can’t think of any better example of how we are a “nation at war” but completely don’t act like it than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s address at the Brookings Institution today, unveiling the administration’s new National Security Strategy, which is, at it’s heart, a fairly pedestrian, idealized patchwork of global do-gooding, terrorist thwarting, counterinsurgency (COIN)-advancing measures, much of which have been put into practice in the last several years, but to no realistic success. Perhaps that is why it was more important what the secretary didn’t say, than what she did. She barely spoke of Iraq and Afghanistan, other to say that it is fairly expensive to put civilian officers into current conflict zones (I do not think she said the word “war” once today), but that the State Department was dedicated to the “whole of government approach” to our missions there anyway.
Not in Clinton’s speech, nor in the document itself, were there references to, or examples of, military or diplomatic accomplishments in Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan, probably because it might be uncomfortable to make up such things in the absence of any long-term stability, peace or prosperity in any of these countries after nearly a decade and over 5,485 U.S lives lost in the trying. In fact, the political situation is imploding in Iraq and the first real test of the “whole of government” or WOG approach in Marjah has been pretty much ruled a bust in Afghanistan by people who know.
Of course the National Security Strategy is a congressionally-mandated exercise that is supposed to be a working blueprint for the President’s vision moving forward. But the formula for achieving something in Iraq and Afghanistan reads like a shopworn, two-page brochure: deny al Qaeda safe havens, minimize the influence of the Taliban, strengthen the central government, work with international and regional partners and hopefully start withdrawing troops by the imposed July 2011 deadline. The same with Iraq: help stand up their country as much as possible in order to transition the hell out of there.
Nothing new or exceptional here. And it is really hard to engage in the rest of it (56 pages total) with such stale invocations, talking about our country’s “military superiority” and our “responsibility” to “strengthen and apply American leadership” with a shift to comprehensive yet “soft” power abroad, in order to advance global cooperation, democracy and peace in a broad and effective “international order” based on universal values of human rights and dignity. All too familiar messaging, just slightly tweaked for the new liberal internationalist administration and completely taken out of the context that we have virtually taken a bulldozer to two countries and have been bombing another (Pakistan) daily through two U.S administrations.
But yet Clinton’s kindred spirits at the Center for a New American Security (the house where COIN lives) were nodding in agreement, though nothing in the advancement of their vaunted “Petraeus Doctrine” has yet seen fruition. I got a press release with a series of well-versed reactions to the document just as it was released. Just a taste from CNAS President John Nagl, who has been called the “Johnny Appleseed of COIN”:
“The Obama Administration’s National Security Strategy displays an impressive understanding of the new threats and challenges America faces in this new century. It recognizes that America is stronger when it fights alongside its allies and helps our partners build their own capacity to combat the threats we share – from Al Qaeda to climate change to cyber attacks. Building our partners’ capabilities can help prevent wars and is the key to victory when we do have to fight.”
I’m glad we got all that figured out. They don’t call it a think tank for nothing.
This was the month in President Obama’s term that U.S. troops would be home from Iraq, or at least as he promised, 16 months after inauguration. Then the deadline was extended to 19 months (September) and depending upon the situation on the ground there, such a decision may be postponed indefinitely. After all, the SOFA calls for U.S. troops to be in Iraq until 2011 and given the unstable political situation, lots of armed groups and the uncertain status of Iraq police and armed forces to hold the nation together, the idea of keeping 50,000 troops in Iraq the way the U.S keeps troops in Europe, South Korea, Japan, Bahrain, Qatar, practically all over the world, may very well follow along the same lines.
And while troops remain in Iraq (although in fewer numbers) more troop are now in Afghanistan, readying themselves something that seems like an offensive, but not quite an offensive according U.S. commanding general Stanley McChrystal. But if this military operation that’s not quite a military operation does not achieve its objectives, there’s no back-up plan. It seems like this is an all or nothing gamble.
So after 16 months, U.S. troops are still in Iraq even though they were promised to be out and the war has been escalated both in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan but without any clear objective as to where all this escalation goes if it doesn’t succeed, or if there’s a simple strategy for success.
And yet this situation, sadly, is not being protested outside of few nor really being acknowledge by many, either in the news or in the blogosphere. Glenn Greenwald, may have the answer as to why:
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
That was the slogan of the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s “1984,” where Winston Smith worked ceaselessly revising the past to conform to the latest party line of Big Brother.
And so we come to the battle over history books in the schools of Texas. Liberals are enraged that a Republican-dominated Board of Education is rewriting the texts. But is the rewrite being done to falsify history, or to undo a liberal bias embedded for decades?
Consider a few of the issues.
The new texts will emphasize that the separation of church and state was never written into the Constitution.
Is that not right? The First Amendment prohibits Congress from establishing a national religion. But, in 1776, nine of the 13 colonies had state religions established in their constitutions.
Thomas Jefferson’s words about a “separation of church and state” were not written until 1802, when he responded to a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association. Not until after World War II did the Supreme Court begin the systematic purge of Christianity from American public life.
Barack Obama may have declared, “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.” But Woodrow Wilson said, “America was born a Christian nation,” and Harry Truman wrote Pius XII to affirm, “This is a Christian nation.”
The Texas school board wants the U.S. economic system called “free enterprise” rather than the term Karl Marx used, “capitalism.”
Anything wrong with that? Read More…
During the Bush years, disciples of Leo Strauss often complained that they were unfairly typecast as neoconservatives. There are many kinds of Straussian, including the antiwar French conservative Pierre Manent, the libertarian Paul Cantor, and even a few Front Porcher traditionalists. Many neoconservatives likewise insisted that they were not now, nor had they ever been, Straussians. The two categories had some significant overlap — especially in Kristols pere et fils — but adherents of each thought it unfair to assume the two were coterminous.
Ross Douthat has now done for Rand Paul and the paleoconservatives what Straussians and neocons claimed had been done to them: Douthat has blended together some overlapping but distinct non-neo varieties of the Right to pronounce Rand Paul a paleoconservative. And by the commutative principle, whatever objectionable things one paleo has said may now be applied to Rand Paul. Thus, the Kentucky Republican’s reservations about the Civil Rights Act can be traced not only to libertarianism but to racially minded thinkers like Sam Francis.
Several points of clarification are in order. First, paleolibertarians and paleoconservatives formed an alliance in the 1990s, but they stem from separate origins and have branched out in different ways since then. Murray Rothbard, the original paleolibertarian, was also the original libertarian simpliciter, a co-founder of the non-paleo Cato Institute and at various times an ally of Dixiecrats, National Review, the League of Stevensonian Democrats, the New Left, and the Libertarian Party before joining forces with paleoconservatives in the 1990s. The other leading paleolibertarians, Ron Paul and his former staffer Lew Rockwell, don’t have backgrounds quite so eclectic — Rockwell was an editor for the conservative publisher Arlington House and Hillsdale College back in the day and edited a medical-industry newsletter, Paul got involved in Austrian economics and Republican politics long before the term paleoconservative had been coined in its present meaning. Rand Paul is most closely connected, of course, to his father’s views. But if that makes Rand a paleolibertarian, it doesn’t mean that he subscribes to some strict body of dogma. One cannot use the commutative principle even to ascribe Rothbard’s views to Rand Paul.
To connect Rand Paul with paleoconservative thinkers is even more of a stretch. He need not have read anything by, say, Paul Gottfried in order to have arrived at his critique of nondiscrimination law — if he was looking to sources other than the purely libertarian (where criticism of nondiscrimination law is commonplace), Barry Goldwater and the no-prefix conservatives of the 1960s would have sufficed. There’s nothing peculiarly paleo about Rand Paul’s domestic policy views: they are the views that conservatives in general held until around the time of George H.W. Bush administration. His foreign policy, meanwhile, is pitched somewhere between the “humble foreign policy” that George W. Bush alluded to in 1999 and the elder Paul’s non-interventionism. This is a blend that appeals to many paleoconservatives, but I don’t see any evidence that it derives from Pat Buchanan or anyone else closely identified with paleoconservatism. Rand Paul has various ideas in common with paleoconservatives, but except for those derived from his father — who is more libertarian than paleo — he shares at least as many notions with the conservative mainstream. His landslide win in the Kentucky primary is proof of that. Read More…
UPDATE 5/25/2010 9:15: The Will Folks-Nikki Haley story gets more complicated. Folks has lawyered up, claimed that the Haley campaign has not requested the removal of the post claiming the affair, and has threatened to release text messages and e-mails proving it. He also claims that no lawyer from the Haley camp has called to mention the words, “libel” or “defamation” to him.
Folks’ latest post mentions a rumor I also heard yesterday – that Folks and Haley ginned up this scandal together. This seems implausible, but it is absolutely being talked about and gaining steam in Columbia. If true, it is working perfectly. Will Folks is believed to be the villain and is gaining plenty of new hits to his site, while Haley was taking hours of sympathetic phone calls on talk-radio yesterday; the callers believe she is a victim of the media. (How Palin-like!)
So far only the details Folks has provided have been confirmed. We know, as he claimed, that S.C. media outlets were working on this story before his admission. I would expect Folks to begin releasing correspondence that at least shows the formerly friendly relationship he had with Haley soon.
Many conservative voters in S.C. are going to be bitterly disappointed if this turns out to be true.
Original Post: Carolina gubernatorial candidate, Nikki Haley probably had an affair with political blogger, gadfly, and operative Will Folks – who is a one man clearinghouse for Palmetto state rumors. Folks posted this morning that he once had an “inappropriate physical relationship” with the very attractive, and recently-favored Haley. Haley denies it.
I’m told that the affair occurred in 2008 when Folks was working with Haley on her Congressional re-election campaign. Haley was married at the time.
Folks is a former spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford who left after several personal fights and wild political scandals. (He was a useful source in my profile of Gov. Sanford last year.) His reputation since leaving the governor’s office has only increased. He has become South Carolina’s essential political blogger.
In fact, Folks is like the Anna Wintour of South Carolina politics, generally unknown to the larger public, but within the right circles, revered and feared. He is so plugged-in that most political stories in South Carolina appear on his blog before they make the daily papers. I believe he remains a confidential source of advice and comment for Governor Sanford.
At first, I thought that Folks may be pulling his largest stunt ever. Just knowing his character, I believed that he was parodying the style of “affair disclosures.” Also, there is the timing; the primary will be June 8. But I now believe, after speaking with a few South Carolina sources, that Folks had a lawyer go over these words and that he feels genuinely threatened.
After alleging that there is a conspiracy to take down Haley and himself through a by a thousand political cuts, Folks justifies the disclosure by saying, “I refuse to have someone hold the political equivalent of a switch-blade in front of my face and just sit there and watch as they cut me to pieces.” That sounds like Folks.
In judging the veracity of Folks’ admission, it should be noted that Columbia, South Carolina is one of the most treacherous, gossiping, and self-obsessed political capitals on earth. Everyone there talks, and whispers about an affair between Haley and Folks are nearly a year old at this point. Political consultants were wondering two years ago why Haley’s car was so often seen in front of Folks’ home. Read More…
While on a shopping expedition to Leesburg’s Wegman’s today to buy some ramps, I paused for a moment at the newspaper rack. A copy of The Washington Times was on display with a large front page picture of yesterday’s Salute to Israel parade in New York. Next to the picture was an article by Rowan Scarborough entitled “Israel arms may not be enough to stop nukes.” Not wanting to buy such a horrible rag, I read the article standing there, hoping that the ramps would still be waiting when I finished. At first I thought that Scarborough’s piece must be a parody of “Dr. Strangelove,” but I soon decided that he was actually serious. The article started by praising the Israeli Air Force and its capabilities while excoriating terrorists in Gaza and Lebanon, the Syrian army, and the “peripheral state” Iran. It then observed that Israel might not have enough firepower to destroy all of Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Scarborough quoted a retired US Air Force Colonel named John Warden (possibly General Jack D. Ripper in alias) who suggested that the United States should deal with Iran by shutting down the country’s electrical generation capability for the foreseeable future because “Iran cannot sustain a nuclear research program if they don’t have electricity and oil and a bunch of other things like that.” John Pike, a “longtime analyst of the Pentagon and intelligence agencies” also quoted in the article, suggests that Israel target the workers at the Iranian nuclear sites. “Most of the people who work at these facilities live in housing that is more or less co-located with the facility. This makes for a short commute, and facilitates physical and operational security. Bomb the housing, and you destroy the program for a generation.”
Honest, I didn’t make any of this up and you can check it for yourself. I look forward to hearing a lot more from Scarborough, Warden, and Pike.
I later bought a half pound of ramps which I will fry up with organic potatoes this evening. Lovely.