SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK. On the great David Brooksdebate, can I suggest a compromise? Let kids read what they want. Give them a list of books to choose from and allow them into the classes, or into the groups, that are studying books they'd actually like to read. As it is, Brooks' contention that boys are desperate to read Hemingway but foiled by a feminized education system is a bit silly. Hemingway, for one, would think any male lacking the gumption to stride into Barnes and Nobles and pick up the damn book himself deserved a whupping.
KEEP DIGGING, TOM. The Tom Friedman column mocked �round the world (in which he boldly declared for the umpteenth time that "the next six months are crucial in Iraq") just gets funnier as Friedman goes on the defensive. To wit, on CNN today he defended that stereotypically hollow, centrist nonsense with... hollow, centrist nonsense! Money quote, via Think Progress:
So the left � people who hated the war, they want you to declare the war is over, finish, we give up. The right, just the opposite. But I�ve been trying to just simply track the situation on the ground. And the fact is that the outcome there is unclear, and I reflected that in my column.
DEATH OF THE BALLOT INITIATIVES. I'm really surprised by today's E.J. Dionnecolumn on the defeat of Proposition 82. Unlike Matt, I don't think it makes many good points. Rather, I think it determinedly ignores, or simply doesn't know, the crucial one: What Dionne identifies as "voter skepticism about public spending" is really a profound fatigue for and increasingly negative disposition towards ballot initiatives.
MALLABY GETS IT RIGHT.Sebastian Mallaby pens an excellent column today. As John Bolton approaches the one-year mark of his recess appointment, it is clear that his tenure has been defined by the waning of American influence at the United Nations. His preference for zero-sum games in a forum that has advanced beyond those kinds of negotiating tactics has backfired, and has done so to the detriment of American interests at the United Nations.
LESSONS LEARNED. He makes some good points, but I think E.J. Dionne's column on the lessons of failing to achieve universal preschool in California misses some important structural issues. As he writes, one lesson here is that even in California it's hard to enact a gigantic ambitious new government program. But one should also remember something important here: Had California enacted the gigantic ambitious government program in question, it likely would never have been repealed. Universal programs are very expensive and, therefore, very hard to establish.
MORE ON FEELINGS AND STUFF. See, I read Brooks� column yesterday in a kind of light spirit, which I thought he intended (while recognizing, of course, the subtle conservative subtext, which David always sneaks in toward the end of such ruminative columns). Now, Linda H.comes along to remind me that there�s nothing light about these questions at all, that I�ve fallen into Brooks� well-sprung trap, and am only demonstrating that, when it comes to the phrase �male liberal,� the first word is fated always to pulverize the second.
CLOSING THE GAP.Jim VandeHeireported in yesterday's paper that, based on figures released so far, the fundraising gap between the GOP and the Democrats is much smaller this year than in past cycles. Considering that the importance of raising money isn't exactly a secret, these numbers tend to get weirdly neglected in a lot of punditry. It should be obvious that one important reason that we can have a whole series of close elections that all break toward the Republicans is that the Republican base has a lot more money than the Democratic base and, consequently, the Republicans usually wind up with a lot more cash to spend on campaigns.
SACRIFICING LIBERTY FOR THE SAKE OF THE GAME. They�ve almost grown tiresome, the relentless complaints that center on the conspicuous lack of public and political outrage over the manifest evidence that this administration seems to consider the Bill of Rights to be a bathmat. Where, I wonder, have these people been living for the past 25 years or so? The popular culture -- most notably, television and the movies -- have worked overtime to convince Americans that the Bill is little more than a series of loopholes through which dive criminals, fakes, and mountebanks, usually played by James Rebhorn. More recently, and especially on FOX's admittedly compelling 24, the Bill is the magic portal through which scary terrorists land in our midst.
ASSIMILATION NATION.Tyler Cowen and Daniel Rothschild have an op-ed in the Post on Latino immigrant assimilation making the point that "Latino immigrants, like generations of immigrants before, are entering the mainstream of life in the United States. Ours is the best country in the world at assimilating immigrants. This should be a badge of honor, and one that we wear proudly." It's nothing we haven't hashed out previously on TAPPED, but give it a read if you're interested in the topic.
TWO HATS.Elisabeth Bumiller's profile of White House Iraq aide Meghan O'Sullivan is another reminder that, though it's impolite and possibly politically counterproductive to say so, the man in charge of this country seems to be a bit dimwitted. His Iraq briefing memos are only three pages long and "written in the crisp, compelling style that the president prefers." O'Sullivan is praised for her ability to "distill a complex mass of developments into something more penetrable" and for being "succinct, unpretentious, full of facts and cheerful � exactly what Mr. Bush likes."