Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why Do Politics Stop at the Water's Edge?

The latest scandal burbling out of Washington involves a meeting between House Minority Whip (soon to be Majority Leader) Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu wherein Rep. Cantor promised to serve as a "check" on the Obama Administration's policies regarding Israel and the Middle East.

The main objection to this is that "politics stop at the water's edge", and that when it comes to foreign policy, America speaks with one voice emanating from the executive branch. Certainly, there is plenty of precedent for this belief, one aggressively trumpeted by Republicans during the Bush administration. And I suppose there is something to it -- constitutionally, control over foreign policy is delegated largely to the executive branch, and there is something deeply unseemly about an American politician tells a foreign leader that he will take his side in a clash between that county's desires and America's.

That being said, there seems to be a fiction being enacted here, which is that there are no substantive political disputes about what American interests are or what American foreign policy should be. There are no inherent American interests, only competing conceptions of what America should be interested in. And nobody is really surprised that Rep. Cantor and President Obama disagree on the question. So why shouldn't Rep. Cantor use what leverage is constitutionally delegated to the House of Representatives to try and enact his favor cluster of foreign policy priorities?

Now therein lies the rub for me: I find Rep. Cantor's intervention substantively distasteful, as I think his policy prescriptions are worse for America, worse for Palestinians, and ultimately worse for Israelis. So for that reason, I oppose what he did -- the same as I would oppose a Cantor meeting with the Chamber of Commerce where he pledged to serve as a "check" on the Obama Administration's efforts to regulate the financial industry. But the belief that domestic politics represent something fundamentally different from foreign policy -- the former a subject of legitimate democratic constestation, the latter beyond the bounds of ideological debate -- strikes me as near-entirely fictional.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Breaking: Americans Still Hate Palin

Even with her tea-party-affiliated wing of the GOP in ascendancy, Sarah Palin continues to decline, with over half of Americans (52%, to be precise) viewing her unfavorably. Just 40% have a favorable view of the former half-term Alaska Governor.

Better yet, for Democrats at least, is that her support is growing more polarized -- she continues to register gains amongst Republican voters, but these are counterbalanced by her growing toxicity with independents. All of which spells a Palin nomination for President in 2012 -- followed by a crushing defeat by Barack Obama.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Anti-Soros Anti-Semitism

Jewish leaders from all camps are outraged at the deployment of nakedly anti-Semitic tropes by Glenn Beck in his ongoing crusade against liberal investor George Soros. Soros, a Holocaust survivor, was accused by Beck of being a Nazi collaborator while hiding with a non-Jewish family in his teenage years. This is on top of a wave of rhetoric which, in the words of Michelle Goldberg:
described Soros as the most powerful man on earth, the creator of a ‘shadow government’ that manipulates regimes and currencies for its own enrichment. Obama is his ‘puppet,’ Beck says. Soros has even ‘infiltrated the churches.’ He foments social unrest and economic distress so he can bring down governments, all for his own financial gain.

Beck even borrowed quotes from the rabidly anti-Semitic former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Soros is a public figure, and thus is a fair target for public attack. But I have expressed in the past and reiterate my observation that many of these attacks have taken on more than a hint of anti-Semitic flavor -- and Glenn Beck has been leading the charge.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Moot Court Round 1.1

My first moot court round (well, half of it -- we each go once as petitioner and respondent in round one) is now complete, and I think it went rather well. The judges told me I spoke a little fast, which I take to be a big victory (normally I speak blindingly fast). They also noted that I overgesticulate, which is definitely true. But they had naught but happy words for my substance and seemed generally pretty satisfied, so, yay.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Senate Changed Paul

The earmark debate is dumb. Earmarks account for an absurdly small percentage of federal spending, so the hubbub over it is almost invariably a way to sound like one cares about the budget without actually having to cut anything worthwhile.

Nonetheless, it has been a bit of a tea party hobbyhorse, and opposition to earmarks was a key element of Sen.-elect Rand Paul's (R-KY) campaign. So much for that:
In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, he tells me that they are a bad “symbol” of easy spending but that he will fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork, as long as it’s doled out transparently at the committee level and not parachuted in in the dead of night. “I will advocate for Kentucky’s interests,” he says.

Good lord, man, you've been elected for less than a week! At least go through the motions!

I'm reminded of the last panel of this comic:
THOG: Thog wonders how Thog will cope with life outside jailhouse walls. Prison changed Thog.

ELAN: We were only in there for 40 minutes.

THOG: Prison changed Thog quickly.

Monday, November 08, 2010

It's No Better in the Private Sector, Kid

I empathize with Radley Balko's travails to get his refund back from the IRS. But that's because I'm locked in more or less the same battle with Comcast, which has been hanging onto my security deposit and refund for nearly three months now. Same utter incompetence by everyone I've every interacted with. Same shunting from bureaucracy to bureaucracy. Same inability to explain what went wrong, how it went wrong, or how they're planning to fix it. I don't think even the IRS' opening gambit was to allege that Balko owed them additional money, which is how Comcast tried to play me.

GOP Rep. Bachus Blames Palin for Continued Dem Control of Senate

Someone's going to get tea partied come 2012:
Alabama Rep. Spencer Bachus (R) told members of the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce that former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was probably the reason for the GOP's failure to take control in the U.S. Senate in last week's election.

"The Senate would be Republican today except for states (in which Palin endorsed candidates) like Christine O'Donnell in Delaware," Bachus said. "Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate."

There's actually a surprisingly decent case for this: Nominating sane candidates flips Delaware, Nevada, and Colorado into the GOP column. That makes things 50-50, and frees up Republican resources to bombard Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who barely escaped 2010 intact.