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  • BLOCK THAT METAPHOR!...

    BLOCK THAT METAPHOR! Recently, at something called the Aspen Ideas Festival -- and how did Plato and the rest of them manage without having an Ideas Fest, I ask you -- Bill Clinton said the following concerning the situation in Iraq: "Once you break the eggs, you have a responsibility to make an omelet." I disagree. For one thing, once you break the eggs, you can make almost anything. You can make scrambled eggs, or poached eggs, a five-layer chocolate cake, or a pitcher of skullbuster eggnog, for all that. There's no affirmative obligation to make an omelet, and only an omelet, once you've broken the eggs. This is small-bore thinking, dammit, like school uniforms and V-chips. Enough of this! Moreover, there is a more serious flaw in Mr. Clinton's approach to this vital metaphorical issue. Let us say, just for fun, that I entrust the eggs in question to some belligerent and unsophisticated children and they go out in the backyard and, for a number of reasons that later turn out to be...
  • OUR FARCICALLY DISAPPOINTING...

    OUR FARCICALLY DISAPPOINTING PRESS CROPS. If I were crafting a parody of the political media's decline, I could hardly construct a better set piece than today's reportage. A live mic at the G8 Summit caught Tony Blair and George Bush talking privately about the conflict in Lebanon. Given the relative opacity of Bush's thoughts on the situation, the frank discussion offered a fair amount of insight and a couple nuggets of news, including that he was going to send Condi to the region (or possibly the U.N. -- but she's going somewhere to deal with this), that he blamed neither Israel nor Lebanon for the violence, and that "the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over." That's a big deal: Bush believes it within the Syrian government's power to calm the conflict. Theoretically, that should have major implications for American diplomacy and, possibly, policy. So what's CNN 's headline? "Open mic catches Bush expletive on Mideast"!...
  • EQUALLY -- YES!...

    EQUALLY -- YES! I was really hoping that my claim that Israel's targeting of Lebanon's civilian infrastructure and Hezbollah's use of indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli cities were "equally indefensible" would bring forth an outraged condemnation of my "moral equivalence." It seems I'll have to settle for Jon Chait saying he doesn't "see how [I] could morally equate the actions of the two sides." I think it's pretty easy. Jon says Israel has been "attacking the parts of Lebanon's infrastructure that could be used to spirit the kidnapped soldiers out of the country, and followed it up by trying to destroy Hezbollah's artillery." No objection to destroying Hezbollah's artillery from me. It's the civilian infrastructure part that bothers me. Jon wants to say this is justified because Israel needs to prevent the captured soldiers from being moved out of the country. I don't think this holds any water -- surely Hezbollah can transport two guys across the Syrian border even if the...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: WHY WE FIGHT. TAP talks to political scientist Nolan McCarty , co-author of the new book Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches . McCarty points to economic inequality as the culprit for rising political polarization in the United States: What�s happened in the past 25 to 40 years or so is that as economic inequality has increased, there�s been a polarization of the parties on economic issues -- mostly due to the Republicans moving to the right. In the �70s and the �80s there was a rapid increase in incomes at the top without the commensurate increase of incomes at the bottom. And economic policies that Republicans had promoted and lost elections on in the �60s they began to win elections on in the �70s and �80s with the support of this new wealthier vote. So, there�s a direct relationship between the polarization of the parties on economic issues and the increased economic inequality that took place, primarily because these new,...
  • GORE WATCH: ENTERTAINMENT...

    GORE WATCH: ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY EDITION. There are, I hasten to acknowledge, much more important things going on in the world at the moment, but nevertheless this passage from EW 's cover story on Al Gore includes a softer Gore line on the "running for prez" question than I've seen before from the man: Of course, Gore can always go back to being an ordinary presidential candidate -- he hasn't completely sealed off that option. ''I do not expect to run for president again,'' he says, choosing his words carefully. ''But I haven't completely ruled out the possibility of running at some future time. I haven't given any Sherman-esque statements: 'If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve...'''... Maybe this has been his line for a while; it was new to me. UPDATE: Commenters inform me that, indeed, this has been his line for a while and I'm just behind the times. Perhaps I should stop depending on Entertainment Weekly for updates on American politics... --Sam Rosenfeld
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: A CRISIS FORETOLD. Jo-Ann Mort reports from Israel and contemplates a major casualty of the crisis: the dream of peace achieved unilaterally. --The Editors
  • ISRAEL IS NOT...

    ISRAEL IS NOT INDIA. I would join with Jonah Goldberg 's criticism of today's Sebastian Mallaby column. That India has shown impressive restraint in responding to its rival Pakistan doesn't necessarily offer a template or commentary on the Israel-Hezbollah situation. Israel's calculus in attacking a non-nuclear, largely diffuse enemy that's incapable of matching their military strength is rather different than India's decision to refrain from courting nuclear war against a large state. That's not to say Israel's actions are right or wrong, but it's a specific situation with its own history and context that deserves to be analyzed as such. The situation is complicated enough on its own merits that our nation's op-ed columnists needn't be muddying the waters. --Ezra Klein
  • WHAT MAKES A...

    WHAT MAKES A CONSERVATIVE? Fred Barnes writes about Bush 's favorite foreigners : The president's favorites don't have to be conservatives. Blair dislikes American economic policy. Merkel has urged that Guant�namo prison be closed. Rasmussen has worried aloud about abuse at Abu Ghraib prison and possible murders at Haditha in Iraq. But, an aide says, "the president is looking for people who see the world as he sees it." That means, at a minimum, they support his post-invasion policy in Iraq and regard the spread of democracy as important. Am I correct in reading these remarks about Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as implying that not worrying about abuse and murder is actually constitutive of what Barnes thinks it means to be a conservative? By normal standards, after all, Rasmussen is a conservative. He leads Denmark's free market party and governs in coalition with the Conservative People's Party. His main economic policy agenda item has been tax cuts and he backed the...
  • CASH, INFLUENCE, AND...

    CASH, INFLUENCE, AND CONTROL. I don't have any special insight into the interrelationships between Syria and Iran on the one hand and Hamas and Hezbollah on the other, but I think it's worth saying that this notion out here that Syria and Iran actually control the latter two groups seems to lack a serious evidentiary basis. Undeniably, the two states give money and weapons to the two non-state actors. And, clearly, this affords Damascus and Teheran some degree of influence over Hamas and Hezbollah. But one needs to put this sort of relationship in perspective. The U.S. government gives money to Egypt, which gives us some influence over the government in Cairo. But we don't control Egypt in the sense of micromanaging Egyptian policy decisions. In principle, we could always tell Hosni Mubarak "do X or we'll cut off your funding." In practice, though, such threats need to be used rather sparingly, and there's always the possibility of Egypt viewing such a demand as a bluff and calling it...
  • THE OTHER MIDDLE...

    THE OTHER MIDDLE EAST MESS. In case Israel's attempts to level Lebanon had temporarily lifted your depression on all issues Iraqi-related, The New York Times reports that Sunni calls for American withdrawal have quieted as fears of mass slaughter at the hands of rampaging Shiites have deepened. Recently, Shiite militias have been conducting public executions of Sunnis in broad daylight, and Sunni areas have had to erect armed checkpoints to deter roving Shiite death squads. Consequently, groups who once wished us out post haste are rconsidering the decision, fearing our vacuum will embolden a virtual genocdie. In this context, those pockets of Baghdad still littered with Saddam Hussein supporters are rejoicing every time the Americans pass, using the loudspeakers to inform residents that the military rolling through is not Iraqi, and thus should not be shot at. Next thing you know they'll be giving us BFF lockets. --Ezra Klein

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